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Nebraska regulators approve alternative route for Keystone XL Pipeline

[JURIST] Nebraska regulators voted [decision, PDF] on Monday to approve a route for TransCanada's Keystone XL oil pipeline, lifting the final regulatory barrier for the long-delayed project.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission [official website], an elected panel that rules on the state's pipelines, electric lines and telecommunications, ruled 3-2 to approve a route that is a slightly longer alternative path than TransCanada's [corporate website] preferred route, that could prove more difficult and costly to build. Because pipeline safety is a federal responsibility, Nebraska Public Service Commission was prohibited by law from considering pipeline safety or the risk of spills when making its decision, so it did not take into account the 210,000 gallon oil spill [NYT report] on the existing Keystone pipeline in South Dakota.

The Commission chose the alternative route because the Keystone XL Pipeline and Keystone I Pipeline would be side-by-side, instead of miles apart in the preferred route. The court reasoned that "it is in the public interest for the pipelines to be in closer proximity to each other, so as to maximize monitoring resources and increase the efficiency of response times. This would also assist emergency responders and others that may be called upon to assist with any issues that may arise with either pipeline." It went on to say that the alternative route impacts fewer threatened and endangered species, rivers and streams, and state highways.

The proposed line has been highly controversial since the pipeline was first advocated nearly ten years ago. The controversy surrounding the project is connected with its proposed proximity to multiple large bodies of water that could become irreparably contaminated should the pipeline fail.

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