Thursday, 14 December, 2017

Judge: Lawsuit challenging Keystone pipeline can continue

An activist holds up a sign outside the State Department during a protest of the Keystone XL pipeline Watchdog US Federal Judge Approves Lawsuit Challenging Keystone XL Pipeline AFP 2017 Brendan SMIALOWSKI
Jeannie Matthews | 23 November, 2017, 00:39

While the approved alternative route would avoid the Sandhills, it would still cross small parts of the Ogallala aquifer, the main source of drinking and irrigation water in Nebraska and much of the Great Plains. At the same time it opens new questions that she said her group would explore in federal court.

The environmentalists said the State Department and other agencies relied on outdated environmental reviews for the Keystone XL pipeline and did not consider relevant information when Trump issued his executive action in January. The decision, though, wasn't wrinkle-free: The panel mandated an alternative route that was immediately targeted by the project's opponents as lacking adequate vetting.

The commissioners who voted for the pipeline permit included Frank Landis, a lawyer first elected in 1988; Rod Johnson, a former Republican state legislator; and Tim Schram, a former county commissioner. A TransCanada spokeswoman said Tuesday the cause is unknown.

The PSC determined the project is in Nebraska's public interest, overriding the objections of environmental conservationists, Native American tribes and landowners along the pipeline's prospective route.

The 3-2 decision was the final regulatory hurdle for TransCanada's proposed 1,179-mile (1,897-kilometer) pipeline that would connect oil sands in Canada to refineries in Texas and elsewhere.

The Keystone pipeline transports crude oil from Canada to refineries in Oklahoma and IL, and passes through North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri.

Country music singer Mel Tillis dies at 85
The Tillis family said they plan to announce funeral arrangements for Nashville and Florida soon. He developed a speech impediment after a childhood bout of malaria, the Tennessean reported.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris rejected efforts by the Trump administration and TransCanada to have the lawsuit dismissed. The current pipeline runs through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas and extends east into Missouri and IL.

It said in a statement that during its testimony in the PSC's public hearings, TransCanada had "argued that building along an alternative route would be unworkable, and will now need additional easements if the company tries to proceed with the project". Its power over the project is drawn from the state's constitution. "TransCanada had the burden of proof and its proof failed", his firm said in a statement.

"The pipeline will neither load nor unload products for Nebraskans", Domina said in a post-hearing submission, adding that the project's alleged economic effect on jobs and taxes within the state are overstated.

Environmental groups spearheaded by Bold Alliance and the Sierra Club claimed the conduit would require an 80- to 110-foot-wide construction right-of-way, fifty feet of which would remain after completion, with the potential to devastate environmentally sensitive areas and harm endangered species.

The simplest choice is a yes-or-no vote on TransCanada's "preferred route" through a dozen Nebraska counties.

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