Breaking news from Nebraska on Monday regarding a vote in favor of the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline brings controversy among environmentalists. The Nebraska Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to allow the pipeline to pass through the state, giving company TransCanada a green light. The news comes just days after the Keystone pipeline leaked 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota.
Though the expansion was approved, officials did not approve TransCanada’s number one choice of routes. There were three proposed paths: the Sandhills Alternative Route, the “Preferred Route, and the Keystone Mainline Alternative Route. After state officials determined the company’s preferred route to be a "particularly fragile ecological area,” they approved the more expensive Keystone Mainline Alternative Route that will add 5 miles, an extra pumping station and transmission lines.
The Keystone Mainline Alternative Route will supposedly have the least environmental impact, say state officials, with the pipeline passing through fewer areas of threatened and endangered species. Additionally, the Keystone Mainline Alternative Route runs parallel the Keystone Pipeline for roughly 100 miles, so monitoring of both would be more convenient.
Map of the proposed extension. Source: The Institute for Energy Research
It remains unclear if this elected alternative route would require any additional permits that the preferred route had already acquired, and activists question whether this might slow down construction.
Indeed, this idea has heartened some critics of the pipeline: "Today was a victory for everyone working to stop Keystone XL," tweeted Jane Fleming Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party. "TransCanada did not get their preferred route which means years of new review and legal challenges are now on the table."
Nevertheless, some are still fearful of the environmental impact that the proposed extension will have. Crystal Rhoades, a commissioner who voted against the pipeline, said the route will still cross several miles of fragile soils, which could result in landslides.