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Trump promised to build the Keystone XL. Three votes in Nebraska could stop it.



“In an Oval Office ceremony after pushing through the approval of TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, President Trump asked the company chief executive Russ Girling when work would start.

The answer wasn’t that simple.

TransCanada still needs to win the approval of state regulators. This week they got a taste of how difficult that could be as the Public Service Commission kicked off public hearings in Nebraska, the state where opposition to the $8 billion pipeline project has been strongest.”

“Nebraska might be TransCanada’s biggest obstacle. The pipeline, first proposed more than eight years ago, has touched a populist nerve and aroused concerns that a leak could contaminate farm land and pasture, the delicate Sandhills, or water supplies.

“We still have a bunch of family farmers on the land that their ancestors homesteaded,” said Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party and a long-time organizer of opposition to the Keystone XL .“They have a deep emotional and cultural tie to the land and feel a responsibility that they must protect it.””

“Democrat Crystal Rhoades and independent-minded Republican Mary Ridder are the most likely to vote against the pipeline. Ridder is a rancher from the Sandhills, a region of grass prairie and sand dunes in north-central Nebraska covering just over one quarter of the state.

Although many pipeline opponents have tried to highlight pipeline dangers, Rhoades said in an email that “Safety isn’t something the Commission is permitted to consider under the law passed by the legislature.” She said that the commission “can consider economic impacts, including loss of jobs to common carriers currently transporting tar sands or losses to green job growth or loss of land values and loss of tax revenue. We can also consider the fragility and permeability of the soil, the impact on endangered species, and threats to Native American burial sites and disruption of other cultural sites. We can consider input of the public.””


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