LINCOLN, Neb.-- The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline announced Thursday that it will proceed with its plans to build the pipeline according to an alternative route approved by Nebraska authorities and that it hopes to begin construction next year.
TransCanada Corp. said in a news release that its decision builds on the Nebraska Public Service Commission's vote to approve a route through the state on Nov. 20. The approved route, which TransCanada says it will follow, is longer and requires an extra pumping station to the route the company had proposed.
TransCanada, based in Calgary, Canada, said it has secured enough 20-year commitments from oil companies to ship approximately 500,000 barrels per day through the pipeline.
"Over the past 12 months, the Keystone XL project has achieved several milestones that move us significantly closer to constructing this critical energy infrastructure for North America," Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
The project faces intense opposition from environmental groups, property owners along the route and Native American tribes, who consider it a threat to their groundwater and property rights.
The Nebraska commission's vote to approve a route through the state removed one of the last regulatory obstacles for the project, although it still could face years of court challenges.
If completed, the pipeline would carry oil from Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would connect to an existing pump station in Steele City, Nebraska. From there it would continue through Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas until it reaches Gulf Coast refineries. Business groups and some unions support the project as a way to create jobs and reduce the risk of shipping oil by trains that can derail.
President Barack Obama's administration studied the project for years before finally rejecting it in 2015 because of concerns about carbon pollution. President Donald Trump reversed that decision in March. Federal approval was required because the route crosses an international border.
The route approved 3-2 by the Nebraska commission is 5 miles (8 kilometers) longer than TransCanada's preferred route and would require an additional pumping station. Commissioners who voted for it said the alternative route would affect less rangeland and endangered species. The commission was not allowed to take into account the recent leak of the existing Keystone pipeline in South Dakota because pipeline safety is a federal responsibility.