Despite a large oil spill from the existing Keystone pipeline in South Dakota just days before the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) announced their final decision, the Keystone XL pipeline won approval on November 20, 2017. It was, however, not all good news for TransCanada Corp., the Canadian company proposing to build the pipeline, as the PSC did not grant approval to their desired route, instead approving the ‘mainline alternative route.’
There are mixed opinions about the decision, as even with the approval of the alternative route, TransCanada and those in support of the Keystone XL pipeline are well aware that the fight against the project is not over . Some opposition groups, including the Bold Nebraska Alliance, see the approval of the alternative pipeline as a partial victory, as a number of Nebraskan landowners, farmers and ranchers are now no longer in the path of the proposed route, and opposition groups have renewed their commitment to continue fighting the project . Furthermore, environmentalists are already calling for more environmental impact assessments, and there is a potential for new challenges against the pipeline from landowners that now find themselves in the path of the newly approved alternative route, which would further delay construction .
This pipeline system aims to transport oil sands bitumen from Canada and the northern United States primarily to refineries in the Gulf Coast of Texas. The pipeline will affect indigenous peoples and their sacred lands, specifically the waters and land they depend on for their survival. It also affects farmers and ranchers. President Obama rejected it but Congress kept pushing it with various new legislation.
Ever since the pipeline was proposed by TransCanada, it has faced strong opposition from environmental justice groups in both Canada and the United States of America. Although the project has support in the Nebraskan State Legislature, legal challenges and lobbying by opposition groups had stopped the pipeline from entering the state. In 2011, a coalition of landowners and environmentalists called the Bold Nebraska Alliance, successfully lobbied to give the right to the PSC to regulate pipelines in the state of Nebraska . Prior to the actions of the Bold Alliance, Nebraska had no regulations or state agency to govern pipelines . However, in a set back for the Bold Alliance, a TransCanada backed legislation was created a year later to give the Governor, Dave Heinemann, the right to approve pipelines . The Bold Alliance then filed a lawsuit which went to the State Supreme Court, and in a decision in 2015, seven justices sided with Bold, with three absenting from voting. Unfortunately, to overturn the statute granting the right of alternative approval to the governor, the Bold Alliance needed a 5-2 majority, so the decision was more of a moral victory than anything else .
Sources of Conflict:
There are several sources of conflict highlighted by opposition groups to the Keystone XL. First among them is the threat to property rights, as the proposed routes for the pipeline run through the land of private landowners, farmers and ranchers . Environmentalists are also concerned about the pipeline’s threat to water; as the proposed routes for Keystone XL cross one of the largest aquifers in the world, the Ogallala Aquifer, whose water is drawn upon by the states of Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas . The proposed routes also run through the vulnerable and environmentally sensitive area of the Nebraskan Sandhills , and threatens the habitat of several species including the endangered whooping crane 
Tribal Attorneys have also argued that TransCanada had failed to properly consult with Tribes about the project, and did not survey the Trail of Tears, or other sacred sites in the path of Keystone XL for important cultural sites or artefacts .