Nebraska’s Public Utilities Commission narrowly approved the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline’s route three to two on Monday.
The vote came on the heels of a major oil leak of the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota where an estimated 795,000 litres of oil spilled on farmland near the border with North Dakota.
But since the pipeline had already received environmental approval, the commission could not consider leaks and spills in its decision.
The vote broke down along gender lines: commissioners Frank E. Landis Jr., Tim Schram and Rod Johnson voted for it, while Mary Ridder and Crystal Rhodes voted against it.
Rhodes was the only commissioner who gave reasons for how she voted during Monday’s public hearing.
Rhodes gave six reasons, including how TransCanada admitted to not having consulted Native Americans in Nebraska.
“That (TransCanada) had worked with the Southern Ponca Tribe, who reside in Oklahoma, not Nebraska,” she said.
Rhodes was also critical that the preferred and mainline alternative routes still run through several kilometres of fragile soil, that the mainline alternative route still crosses the Ogalala Aquifer, and that there was no evidence that jobs created by the its construction would benefit people in Nebraska.
U.S. President Donald Trump claimed Keystone would create 28 000 jobs. However, most estimates are significantly lower, 3 900 construction jobs if its built in one year. And after its built only 35 jobs will be created.
Rhodes also said the route violates the due process of land owners.
“There are at least 40 landowners along the approved route who may not even know that their land is in this pipeline’s path,” said Rhodes. “Since they may not know that they are in the path of the pipeline, they may not have participated in this proceeding.”
Pipeline opponents have 30 days to file an appeal in Nebraska courts. As well, intervenor parties have 10 days to file a petition with the Public Utlities Commission for a rehearing.
Bold Nebraska is a group that represents several of those intervenors.
It vowed to continue the fight.
“Keystone XL will never be built. We must protect the Sandhills and Ogallala Aquifer from a risky export pipeline and eminent domain abuse,” said Bold Nebraska founder and president Jane Kleeb.
Farmers were also disappointed.
“We are disappointed that the Commissioners approved Keystone XL, and have chosen to place the route through the most fragile soils and over and through the Ogalalla Aquifer — refusing to see the value of our natural resources,” said Art Tanderup, a farmer on the Keystone XL pipeline route.
“The PSC has decided that a foreign corporation is more important than Nebraska citizens…. the Commissioners are allowing the dirtiest of fossil fuels to accelerate climate change.”
The $10 billion project is designed to send 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska.