Nebraska regulators approved the Keystone XL pipeline route through the state, despite a oil leak last week that dumped 210,000 gallons of oil on arable farmland in South Dakota.
With three votes in favor and two against, the Nebraska Public Service Commission (NPSC) approved the pipeline route on Monday. The body was tasked with assessing whether the route was in the state’s best interests, but could not consider the risk of spills since the project already had an environmental permit.
The NPSC has been reviewing the proposed 275-mile route of TransCanada Corp’s crude oil pipeline since February.
Commissioner Crystal Rhoades, the body’s sole Democrat, voted against the pipeline in part because it was not following the originally proposed route.
“The route being approved here today is a different route, and not the focus of the intense study,” said Rhoades. She said the new route violated due process rights of at least 40 landowners, who would be affected by the change and “may not know that the pipeline is along this path, and may not have had an opportunity to make a case before this commission.”
The pipeline would run through fragile soil that has a high probability of landslides and crosses the main Ogallala Aquifer, Rhoades said.
Opposition to the line has been driven mainly by a group of around 90 landowners whose farms lie along the proposed route. They are worried spills could pollute water critical for grazing cattle, and that tax revenue will be short-lived and jobs will be temporary.
Just two day ago TransCanada’s existing Keystone system spilled 5,000 barrels in South Dakota and pipeline opponents said the spill highlighted the risks proposed by the proposed expansion.
“The spill only confirms all our fears, “ Jeanne Crummly, a rancher in Page, Nebraska told Reuters.