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Nebraska green-lights XL

Nebraska's Public Service Commission has approved TransCanada's Keystone XL route in a 3 to 2 vote, clearing the last major regulatory hurdle for the controversial $10 billion project.

The panel's approval came with a tight margin of victory for the pipeline, which would transport about 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Hardisty, Alta. to Steele City, Neb.

The vote comes as TransCanada continues to clean up a 5,000-barrel oil spill from its pipeline in nearby South Dakota that opponents have pointed to as reason not to approve Keystone XL.

Among other concerns, opponents of the 1,897-kilometre Keystone XL project say the pipeline would pass through the Sandhills, an ecologically fragile region in Nebraska of grass-covered sand dunes, and would cross the land of farmers and ranchers who don't want it.

The commission, however, was specifically prohibited from evaluating safety considerations, including risk or impact of a spill, and will instead rule on issues including regulatory compliance, economic and social impacts of the project, the potential intrusion on natural resources, and whether better routes exist.

Barack Obama rejected Keystone XL in 2015 after years of review, only for President Donald Trump to give the go-ahead to the project in March, saying the pipeline will bring jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil.



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