The Keystone XL pipeline now has an approved path through Nebraska, although not a sure one.
Credit the Nebraska Public Service Commission for concluding the pipeline is in the public interest, while respecting Nebraskans’ concerns about risks to land and water by selecting an alternate route.
The PSC’s 3-2 vote Monday pushes the pipeline farther east than the route developer TransCanada preferred, which the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality approved in 2013.
Monday’s order said the new route would disrupt fewer new acres by conforming more to the path of the existing Keystone pipeline and would allow faster response to any problems. The revised route also encroaches less on the migration route of the whooping crane, an endangered species.
It’s not clear whether the new route would require new environmental impact studies or additional regulatory steps.
TransCanada must weigh whether the $8 billion project remains economically and politically viable in an era of lower oil prices and increased public pressure to burn fewer fossil fuels. Nine years ago, when TransCanada began its application process in Nebraska, oil sold for $150 a barrel. On Tuesday it sold for $56 a barrel.
The pipeline would be a potential asset to national security by providing improved access to reliable oil supplies from a stable neighbor and trading partner.
PSC approval gives the project a chance. The next step is up to TransCanada.