Keystone XL Pipeline

The Environmental & Energy Law Program is tracking the environmental regulatory rollbacks of the Trump administration. Click here for the list of rules we are following

Original proposed pipeline route. Source: US State Department archives.

Why it matters

The Keystone XL pipeline is a proposed extension of the existing Keystone Pipeline System, which currently transports up to 600,000 barrels of oil per day between Canada and the U.S. The Keystone Pipeline System runs from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta to refineries in Illinois and Texas, and also to oil tank farms and an oil pipeline distribution center in Cushing, Oklahoma. TransCanada is the sole owner of both the Keystone Pipeline System and Keystone XL. The Keystone XL pipeline would connect to the existing pipeline system to bring oil from Hardisty in Alberta, Canada directly to Steele City, Nebraska. The proposed 875 mile route of Keystone XL would cross the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers.

Opponents of Keystone XL are concerned about the construction’s impact on wildlife. The pipeline’s route and associated power lines would span the majority of endangered whooping cranes’ southern migration route to Texas from Canada. It would also cross the remaining habitats of other threatened species such as piping plovers, sage grouse, and swift fox. The pipeline’s route crosses over 50 streams, increasing the risk that oil spills would affect pallid sturgeon habitats.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission’s decision to approve a new route for the Keystone XL pipeline is the latest turn in a decade old legal and regulatory battle over the controversial pipeline. The new route must undergo a federal agency environmental review before the pipeline can be constructed. This review opens the door to more challenges from local stakeholders, tribes, and environmental groups during the approval and permitting processes through the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Land Management.

Current Status

The Keystone XL Pipeline has received all the necessary federal permits to complete the project. TransCanada, the sole owner of the pipeline, is currently challenging the Nebraska Public Service Commission’s alternative route approval. The Keystone Pipeline System is operating at 20% reduced pressure following a 210,000 gallon oil spill in November 2017.

On February 21, 2018 a US District Judge in Montana ordered the Trump Administration to release by March 21, 2018 the documents it used to make its Keystone XL decision, or explain why it would not, in response to a lawsuit over the approval by several environmental groups.

The State Department is working on a new Keystone XL environmental review to study the route change approved last year by the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

Click here learn more about the history of this rule and actions that have been taken on it by the Trump Administration.

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