Nebraska hearings begin on the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline

Monday marked the opening of the final hearing for the fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline. A five-member panel from the Nebraska Public Service Commission will decide if TransCanada Corp’s project can move forward through their state.

In March of this year, President Donald Trump’s administration reversed a federal rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline from former President Barrack Obama that was based on environmental grounds. However, TransCanada Corp still needs final approval from state officials in Nebraska.

The Keystone XL Pipeline will connect Canada’s Alberta oil sands to Gulf of Mexico refineries and ports by feeding into existing pipeline networks in the United States. The heavy crude from the oil sands is a better fit for the refineries versus the lighter West Texas crude. The pipeline will have a total length of 1,179 miles, and is capable of flowing 830,000 barrels per day.

The main source of pushback comes from environmentalists who are worried about oil spills and global warming. The flip side is that the pipeline will bring jobs, provide national security, and lower fuel prices.

Proceeding the hearing on Monday, there was a planned march through downtown Lincoln, followed by an anti-pipeline rally in front of the state capitol building. The rally included members of local Native American tribes who have been vocal opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline from the beginning.

The hearing was opened yesterday by attorney David Domina, who is an opponent of the pipeline. Domina asked TransCanada executive, Tony Palmer, “Do we have to clean up TransCanada’s abandoned pipeline?” The question is in reference to the pipeline’s disposal after the estimated 50-year lifespan.

The question is also legitimate since many abandoned oil wells are left sitting by the growing number of bankrupt Canadian producers. The Canadian High Court may have to decide who foots the bill in cleaning up these abandoned wells. Keystone opponents want to know who will foot the bill if TransCanada suffers a similar fate.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission expects to announce a decision on the project by November. The pipeline already has a federal environmental permit, so the Commission can’t use the risk of oil spills in making their decision.

Besides environmentalists, other opponents include land owners in the state. A big fear is that TransCanada will try to grab up property along the pipeline by using the eminent domain law if the Nebraska Public Service Commission approves the pipeline. The pipeline could also endanger Nebraska cattle ranching, costing permanent local jobs for the sake of temporary construction jobs to build the pipeline.

The other side says that the Keystone XL Pipeline will bring hundreds of jobs to the state and millions of dollars in revenue.

The pipeline will also greatly help the struggling oil industry in Canada, who’s biggest problem is getting their product to market. However, because of rising U.S. oil production and the unstable global energy market, the Keystone XL Pipeline has lost some of its luster with its supporters.

Article written by HEI contributor Raymond Arrasmith.

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