Nebraska Could Still Keep Keystone XL Pipeline From Being Built When President Trump approved the Keystone XL Pipeline in March, many people thought that meant the controversial project would finally be built. But the pipeline still needs approval from Nebraska.
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Nebraska Could Still Keep Keystone XL Pipeline From Being Built

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Nebraska Could Still Keep Keystone XL Pipeline From Being Built

Nebraska Could Still Keep Keystone XL Pipeline From Being Built

Nebraska Could Still Keep Keystone XL Pipeline From Being Built

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/542752986/542752987" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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When President Trump approved the Keystone XL Pipeline in March, many people thought that meant the controversial project would finally be built. But the pipeline still needs approval from Nebraska.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Remember that big fight over the Keystone XL oil pipeline? Two years ago, President Obama blocked it for environmental reasons. President Trump reversed that and approved it in March, paving the way for crude from Canada's oil sands to flow, via pipeline, to the Gulf of Mexico. But a Nebraska Commission has yet to approve the portion that runs through their state. And this week, they held hearings over what to do. Fred Knapp of NET News reports.

FRED KNAPP, BYLINE: When the president signed a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline in March, he made it sound like a done deal. That left it up to Russ Girling, head of the pipeline company TransCanada, to point out one remaining obstacle.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So the bottom line, Keystone - finish. They're going to start construction when?

RUSS GIRLING: Well, we've got some work to do in Nebraska to get our permits there.

KNAPP: Opposition to the line in Nebraska has long been a thorn in the side of TransCanada, which first proposed Keystone XL nine years ago. To be sure, many people here support the project as a source of construction jobs and tax revenue. Pete Bardeson, an official with the International Laborers' Union, supported the project at a public hearing this summer.

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PETE BARDESON: These are good-paying jobs for pipelined families, which supplies great health insurance and a retirement program for these families. It also brings huge money into the local economies.

KNAPP: But a determined coalition of farmers, ranchers and environmentalists concerned about threats to land, water and climate change have resisted. Jeanne Crumly worries about water for cattle and crops on her family farm, which TransCanada wants to cross.

JEANNE CRUMLY: Any kind of leak here would be devastating. The aquifer is maybe 10 feet down or less along that waterway, so there's no room for any kind of error.

KNAPP: The Nebraska Public Service Commission is supposed to decide if the pipeline's in the public interest. It's considering things like the impact of construction and other routes. But state law prohibits it from considering the risk of leaks. And some reports suggest that with oil prices below half what they were when the pipeline was proposed, the economics no longer are favorable. TransCanada spokesman Matt John denies that.

MATT JOHN: The suggestion in the media that we are shaky or uncertain due to a lack of commercial support is untrue.

KNAPP: But in an earnings call last month, TransCanada executive Paul Miller used a conditional statement in saying the company wouldn't make a final decision until sometime around November.

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PAUL MILLER: In the event that we do decide to proceed with the project, we still need probably six to nine months to start doing some of the...

KNAPP: The Public Service Commission is supposed to make its decision by late November. But Jane Kleeb, who heads an anti-pipeline group, predicts that won't be the end of the fight.

JANE KLEEB: I think if either side wins, the other side will appeal the process (laughter).

KNAPP: In other words, even if the company decides to go ahead, any route through Nebraska would likely first have to wend its way through the courts. For NPR News, I'm Fred Knapp in Lincoln, Neb.

(SOUNDBITE OF RED SPAROWES' "A BRIEF MOMENT OF CLARITY BROKE THROUGH THE DEAFENING HUM, BUT IT WAS TOO LATE")

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