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Nebraska Supreme Court approves construction on controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline revived by Trump


Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrate on the Dodge Street pedestrian bridge during rush hour in Omaha, Neb., in 2017. (Nati Harnik/AP)

Nebraska’s highest court paved the way Friday for construction to begin in that state on Keystone XL, the massive oil pipeline project that was blocked by the Obama administration but revived by President Trump.

The approval from Nebraska’s Supreme Court marked a significant victory for TC Energy, the company that has been trying for over 10 years to construct the behemoth pipeline, which would transport crude oil from Canada to southern Nebraska.

However, the state Supreme Court decision doesn’t deliver the final verdict on the controversial $8 billion project, which has become a microcosm for the battle between environmentalists and the fossil fuel industry.

A federal lawsuit in Montana, through which the proposed pipeline would also run, seeks to block construction. Two other federal lawsuits seeking the same outcome are also pending.

Meanwhile, numerous land owners along the pipeline’s proposed route have refused to sell off their land, and protesters in Nebraska and South Dakota have pledged to stage mass demonstrations if construction begins. Native American tribes have been particularly outspoken against the project, arguing the pipeline would run through their reservations and potentially destroy protected lands and water supplies.

The Friday ruling stemmed from a public service commission in the state voting in favor of allowing an “alternative route” for the project two years ago instead of the initial pathway floated by TC Energy.

Opponents had challenged that route in court, arguing the company hadn’t followed proper procedures and was thereby in violation of Nebraska law.

The state Supreme Court ultimately rejected that argument and sided with the service commission’s vote.

Despite TC Energy’s court victory, opponents vowed to keep fighting.

“The risky pipeline project’s fate is still very much in doubt, as three separate federal lawsuits continue to proceed that challenge the controversial project’s permits,” pipeline opposition group Bold Alliance said in a statement.

Former President Barack Obama appeared to have put the final nail in the coffin on the pipeline in 2015 when he announced he wouldn’t allow construction to begin out of concerns for carbon pollution. He arrived at that decision after studying the project for two years.

But, just two months into his first term, President Trump revived the project in March 2017, signing an order reversing Obama’s decision.

The pipeline project needs presidential approval as its route would cross an international border.

With News Wire Services