The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday approved the planned path of the Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state. It brought to an end, at least the state fight that has gone on more than a decade as the pipeline grew into a national debate between environmentalists and the oil and gas industry.
The Nebraska Supreme Court’s ruling was not the final word on the pipeline. A federal lawsuit in Montana still seeks to block construction, and several landowners along the route have refused to sign easements. Protesters, including from Native American tribes in Nebraska and South Dakota, have promised to mobilize if construction begins.
“This comprehensive decision not only clears a big legal hurdle for this particular pipeline — it signals that a workable process exists in Nebraska for the approval of future major energy infrastructure projects,” said Dave Lopez, who defended the pipeline route before the State Supreme Court in his former role as Nebraska’s deputy solicitor general.
Keystone XL, which would carry crude oil from Canada to southern Nebraska, has been the subject of political maneuvering and litigation since it was proposed in 2008. The project, which was rejected by the Obama administration, was revived under President Trump. It would eventually transport oil that would eventually flow through the original Keystone pipeline construction some years ago in Oklahoma and Texas.
Many Republican politicians and labor groups see Keystone XL as an economic boon, a way to create jobs and satisfy the world’s demand for oil. But for environmentalists and some Native Americans and farmers along the planned route, the pipeline is seen as a grave threat to the warming climate and to fertile land it would run through.
“At some point in our country’s history, the property rights of farmers and the sovereign rights of tribal nations have to trump big oil land grabs,” said Jane Kleeb, the longtime leader of the Keystone XL opposition in Nebraska and the chairwoman of the state’s Democratic Party.
Opponents of the Keystone XL project have voiced hope of delaying construction until after the 2020 presidential election. Some Democratic candidates have vowed to oppose the pipeline if they unseat Mr. Trump.