TransCanada just took another step toward getting its beleaguered Keystone XL pipeline back on track: the oil company filed an application Thursday with a Nebraska agency for route approval.
The move is the first state-level application for the company since President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum in January directing the State Department to review the pipeline’s federal application within 60 days. TransCanada submitted its new application to the State Department on January 26.
“This application has been shaped by direct, on-the-ground input from Nebraskans,” Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “The thousands of Nebraskans we have met over the last eight years understand the value of this project and what it means to the state. As we have said consistently, safety and a respect for the environment remain our key priorities. We are listening and acting on what we have learned.”
TransCanada has already received permission from 90 percent of the Nebraska landowners Keystone XL would affect. The company has indicated it will seek to use eminent domain to acquire rights to the other 10 percent.
Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline became a major environmental cause between 2010 and 2015, galvanizing environmental organizations and communities across the country, including in Nebraska, where the Bold Alliance, led by Jane Kleeb, began.
“Keystone XL is a foreign-owned pipeline, using foreign steel, headed to the foreign export market,” Kleeb said in a statement. “Bold continues to stand with farmers and ranchers to protect property rights from being infringed upon by a pipeline for their private gain.”
According to Bold Alliance, the application filed this week will take between eight months and a year to go through Nebraska’s Public Service Commission and includes a significant public comment process. The company cannot apply to use eminent domain again until September 2017.
“The collective of Nebraska landowners who held out against selling their land to TransCanada remains strong — many are still in court suing TransCanada for the money they have already spent on attorneys and court costs battling eminent domain for over six years,” the organization said.
Landowners have said they are concerned about transporting oil through their property. TransCanada — like every oil company — has a history of pipeline spills. Last spring, thousands of gallons of oil spilled from the original Keystone pipeline. The company initially said only 200 gallons spilled.
In 2015, President Obama announced that the State Department would not be approving Keystone XL’s application to bring 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from the Canadian border to refineries along the Gulf Coast, a distance of 1,700 miles. Citing national security concerns, Obama emphasized in his decision the need to get off fossil fuels.
At the time, environmentalists celebrated the decision, and many speculated that it would be a huge blow to the Canadian tar sands industry.
But during the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to reverse the decision, saying Keystone XL would bring jobs to the country. According to the company, the pipeline “will generate hundreds of millions of dollars in employee earnings in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana alone during construction, and once operating will provide millions of dollars annually in local tax revenues.”
State Department analysis said the pipeline would create 5,000–6,000 jobs during the construction period, and 20 permanent jobs.
Opponents to the pipeline say the small number of jobs isn’t worth the potential damage to farmland, water, and the climate.
“Keystone XL is and always will be all risk and no reward,” Kleeb said.