Last week, TransCanada’s original Keystone pipeline spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota, just days before the Nebraska Public Service Commission was set to announce its decision on a permit for the new Keystone XL pipeline route. The irony was lost on nobody — except perhaps the commission itself. That’s because Nebraska state law forbids the commission from taking into account “safety considerations, including the risk or impact of spills or leaks.” In other words, those kinds of consequences are a sacrifice that lawmakers were willing to make on behalf of all Nebraskans for the sake of oil and gas producers. That’s a bizarre notion of “public service.”
That’s why I’m disappointed but not totally surprised that the commission ended up voting 3–2 to approve an alternative route for the pipeline through Nebraska. It’s not the outcome TransCanada was hoping for, either; the company has been noncommittal so far about whether it will proceed with the alternative route.
This is much is certain, though: The fight to keep this pipeline from being built won’t end with this decision. The Sierra Club will appeal the commission’s decision, which could go all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court. And on top of that, the Sierra Club is still part of a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump State Department’s approval of the project. We won’t stop until we’re sure the pipeline is stopped.
This fight is not just about the pipeline, even though so many people in Nebraska are rightly concerned about the serious risks it poses to their water and environment. The Keystone XL was originally rejected by the Obama administration because it would help perpetuate the travesty that is tar sands mining in Canada. The tar sands are not only an ongoing and mind-boggling environmental disaster but also a massive potential source of climate-disrupting carbon pollution. By themselves, the tar sands account for almost half of the total rise in carbon emissions in Canada since 1990. And since climate change is a global phenomenon, Canada’s problem affects us all.
We’ll keep working to stop this pipeline, as well as any other proposed infrastructure for dirty fuels such as tar sands and fracked gas. The good news is that we have plenty of ways to do that. We can organize protests, make legal challenges, support resistance from affected communities, pressure the financial institutions that might underwrite such projects, and — perhaps most important — continue to promote the clean, renewable energy sources that will make dirty fuels obsolete.
Meanwhile, all the dirty fuels industry has going for it is a dismal and dangerous status quo that sacrifices our future for the sake of corporate profits. If they weren’t doing so much harm, I’d almost feel sorry for them — because there’s no way they can ultimately win this, regardless of today’s decision in Nebraska.