Nebraska regulators approve Keystone XL pipeline route

Nebraska regulators on Monday approved an alternative route for the Keystone XL pipeline through the state, clearing the final regulatory hurdle for the project green-lighted by President Trump earlier this year. 

The pipeline has long pitted oil-and-gas interests against environmentalists, who could still challenge the latest decision in court. 

But the vote could allow developer TransCanda Corp. to access property of holdout landowners and proceed with the $8 billion project, which stretches from the northern U.S. border, through the country’s oil-rich western states to Gulf Coast oil refineries. More than 90 percent of Nebraska landowners along the route have agreed to let TransCanada bury the pipeline beneath their property, but those who oppose it have managed to thwart the project for years.

The five-member Nebraska Public Service Commission voted 3-2 in favor of the route, after Trump earlier this year approved the project -- fulfilling a major campaign promise and reversing the Obama administration's rejection in 2015. 

Environmentalists and landowners along the route have opposed the project over such concerns as spills and climate change. But businesses, unions and Republican lawmakers have largely supported the pipeline, which would move roughly 830,000 barrels of oil daily, as a jobs creator. 

Opponents, meanwhile, said another federal review may be needed because the approved route would run farther north than the preferred route proposed by TransCanada Corp. 

"This decision opens up a whole new bag of issues that we can raise," said Ken Winston, an attorney representing environmental groups that have long opposed the project.

Keystone XL would expand the existing Keystone pipeline, which went into service in July 2010. The current pipeline network runs south through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas and extends east into Missouri and Illinois.

The commission was not allowed to take into account an oil spill on the existing Keystone pipeline last week. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.