A Last Ditch Legal Effort to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline Has Failed

Illustration for article titled A Last Ditch Legal Effort to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline Has Failed
Photo: AP

A new president is looking more and more like advocates’ only way of stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Nebraska Supreme Court approved the pipeline route that cuts through the state, which environmental advocates argued was illegal.


The court battle over the pipeline’s fate has come a long way. In November 2017, the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) approved one of the routes TC Energy, formerly TransCanada (executives changed its name, I wonder why), proposed for the 1,179-mile pipeline. This route wasn’t the one the company had explicitly applied for but it was an alternative in the application. That led pipeline opponents, including landowners, two tribes, and environmental groups to file a lawsuit asking courts to intervene.

But on Friday, Nebraska Supreme Court found that the approval process passed all legal hurdles, per its 59-page opinion. As the justices wrote, “[i]n summary, the PSC is an elected body created by the Nebraska Constitution to serve the public interest.” If the commission determined that the pipeline is in the public interest, well, legally it is, the court ruled.

“The Nebraska decision to approve the KXL route is not a surprise, but we had hoped they would be courageous to protect the earth, water, and wishes of the indigenous people and our allies,” Faith Spotted Eagle, a member of the Yankton Sioux, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement from 350.org.

This court ruling isn’t the end of the fight for opponents, though. The massive proposed project would transport some 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the Alberta tar sands all the way to Nebraska. With President Donald Trump’s full support, the project has seen some big wins. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’ll start seeing major progress on the pipeline’s construction.

The Sierra Club notes that TC Energy has yet to announce a final investment decision on whether to move forward with the energy project. Bold Nebraska, one of the local groups opposing the pipeline, has begun a campaign asking presidential candidates to sign a pledge that one of their first acts will be to shut down the pipeline if they win the White House. So far, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Julián Castro, and Tom Steyer have signed on.


If enough candidates sign on, who knows? Maybe TC Energy will finally let this doomed dream go for good.

Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.


Dense non aqueous phase liquid

Much of the 830,000 barrels per day flowing through KXL will probably end up in Asia. This is out of about 4,000,000 barrels per day from Canada to the US. About 75% of that 4 million is tar sands derived. The rest is from conventional and shale fields.

Or put it this way, if US takes ownership of this oil, it may not have a buyer given Trump’s dealings with China right now. US refineries have modified as much as they need to so they don’t need it. The rest of the world, who knows.

Dogleg right (as the crow flies south) - Northern portion (US border to Steel City or Cushing, OK) Keystone XL in blue added to the Keystone L.

The big picture of tar sands diluted bitumen via pipe flow between BFFs as of 2019: