ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The cleanup continues today after an oil spill last week. TransCanada's Keystone Pipeline leaked 210,000 gallons of oil on a South Dakota prairie. Also, today a panel of regulators in Nebraska paved the way for the same company to build another pipeline through the plains. Grant Gerlock of NET News in Nebraska reports.
GRANT GERLOCK, BYLINE: TransCanada already has one pipeline in Nebraska carrying oil from Alberta, Canada, to refiners in Illinois. That's the Keystone Pipeline. But the company wants to build an even bigger line to carry more than 800,000 barrels a day all the way to the Texas Gulf Coast. That's Keystone XL. Back in March, the Trump administration gave Keystone XL the green light, but Nebraska still needed to decide whether to approve the route. Today, the Nebraska Public Service Commission had its say.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Roll call, please.
GERLOCK: In a room filled mostly with Nebraska landowners who oppose the pipeline, the commission voted 3-2 to approve a route for it.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Tim Schram.
TIM SCHRAM: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Motion carries three yeas...
GERLOCK: But here's the catch - the route granted by the commission is not the one TransCanada had planned. So while the company finally has the OK, pipeline opponents say that new route may help them delay or block the project in court. Anti-pipeline activist Jane Kleeb argues the new route should now be subject to public hearings in Nebraska and a federal environmental review.
JANE KLEEB: This is a new route on the table. The federal government has never reviewed it. And we are absolutely resolute in our position that we will stop this pipeline from ever being built.
GERLOCK: In a statement, TransCanada was noncommittal, saying it will study the new proposed path in Nebraska to see how it would impact the cost of construction. But the company has been putting out the call for customers who would ship oil on Keystone XL. Energy analyst Zachary Rogers says the plan has received an economic boost from a recent uptick in oil prices. TransCanada has also shelved plans for another pipeline in Canada.
ZACHARY ROGERS: What potentially could happen from that is that there might have been producers that were signed up for that line, but since the pipeline has been canceled, they could be incentivized to switch over to commitments on the Keystone lines.
GERLOCK: With higher oil prices and political upheaval in Venezuela, refineries on the Gulf Coast may indeed be more interested in buying heavy crude from Canada. In Nebraska, Keystone XL could be built alongside the original Keystone Pipeline for more than a hundred miles. That's the one that spilled some 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota last week. According to Nebraska law, though, the commission could not consider that fact before making today's decision. Art Tanderup lives alongside the proposed pipeline route in north central Nebraska and remains concerned about safety.
ART TANDERUP: It's still going through the most porous soil in Nebraska. And then we see, you know, their safest pipelines aren't near as safe as they say they are.
GERLOCK: TransCanada says it will announce its decision on whether to move ahead on the new pipeline sometime next month. For NPR News, I'm Grant Gerlock in Lincoln, Neb.
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