Opposition to Keystone XL in Nebraska, United States

In November 2017 Nebraska approves Keystone XL 'Alternative Mainland' Route despite 210,000 Gallon Oil Spill from the Keystone Pipeline In South Dakota days before.


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.’[1]

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Basic Data
NameOpposition to Keystone XL in Nebraska, United States
CountryUnited States of America
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe Keystone XL pipeline is a proposed 36-inch-diameter crude oil pipeline. Covering a total distance of 1,897km from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska, USA, the pipeline has the potential to carry 830,000 barrels of oil per day [6]. Keystone XL would mostly carry Canadian crude extracted from the oil fields in northern Alberta, in order to more easily bring Canadian oil to the refineries along the Gulf Coast; however, it will also carry some, albeit a comparably smaller amount, of oil extracted in the United States [6].

The pipeline would cross parts of Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, and would connect to the Keystone pipeline which is already operational and runs through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Illinois [3].

The Estimated Affected Population is difficult to determine as there is not a list of the amount of farms, ranches, communities or tribes in its path. The estimate given here (1710 persons) is a conservative one that is based on the 90 farmers/ranchers who have refused to sell their land to TransCanada; and of the registered members of the Ponca Tribe in Nebraska, who reside in the fifteen-county Ponca Service Delivery Area. However, the affected population can be much higher as there are roughly 4'100 enrolled members in the Ponca Tribe worldwide [7], and the new alternative route places other landowners in the state in the path of the pipeline.
Project Area (in hectares)189,600
Level of Investment (in USD)7,000,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population1,710
Start Date10/11/2011
Company Names or State EnterprisesTransCanada Corp. from Canada
Relevant government actorsFederal Government of the United States of America

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Nebraska Public Service Commission
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersThe Sierra Club (https://www.sierraclub.org/topics/keystone-xl)

Bold Alliance - Bold Nebraska (http://boldnebraska.org/)

350.org (https://350.org/stop-keystone-xl/)

Audubon Nebraska (http://ne.audubon.org/)

Guardians of the Good Life (https://guardiansofthegoodlife.wordpress.com/)

Nebraska Farmers Union (http://nebraskafarmersunion.org/)

Nebraska Green Party (http://nebraskagreens.org/)

Nebraska League of Conservation Voters (http://nlcv.org/)

Nebraska Wildlife Federation (http://www.nebraskawildlife.org/)

Landowners of Nebraska

The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska

Yankton Sioux Tribe
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Ranchers, landowners
Forms of MobilizationCreation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Violations of human rights
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (undecided)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Fostering a culture of peace
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Approval of Alternative Route
Developing Alternatives As A Form Of Resistance
Development of AlternativesThe Solar XL Project is a campaign to build solar panels in the path of the Keystone XL pipeline as a form of resistance, and to show the contrast between clean renewable energy and dirty energy [8]. For more information on this project see the youtube video produced by 350.org in the Sources and Materials Section.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.It is hard to say whether or not environmental justice has been served. The alternative route might divert the pipeline from those who were originally in its path; however, new landowners now find themselves in its path. Also, the alternative route still crosses the sensitive environmental area of the Nebraska Sandhills, and the vital Ogallala aquifer. Those who have managed to divert the pipeline away from their land might consider this a victory; however, it is difficult to call this a victory for the environmental justice movement until this pipeline is dead once and for all.
Sources and Materials

[2] Hefflinger, Mark. 2017. “Keystone XL Partially Denied; Landowners Vow to Keep Fighting.” Bold Nebraska
[click to view]

[1] Haavardsrud, Paul. 2017. “Keystone XL clears final hurdle only to see more hurdles”. Canadian Broadcasting Company.
[click to view]

[3] CBC. 2017. “Nebraska Oks ‘alternative route’ for Keystone XL pipeline” Canadian Broadcasting Company.
[click to view]

[4] Elbein, Saul. 2017. “The Keystone XL Pipeline Fight is Not Over Yet” Rolling Stone Magazine.
[click to view]

[5] Hefflinger, Mark. 2017. “Landowners, Bold Alliance and Sierra Club Argue Keystone XL Not in the Public Interest in Closing Briefs to Public Service Commission.” Bold Nebraska.
[click to view]

[6] BBC. 2017. "Keystone XL pipeline: Why is it so disputed?." British Broadcasting Company
[click to view]

[7] Ponca Tribe. 2017. "Ponca Tribe Culture and History."
[click to view]


Bold Nebraska webpage. Information about their fight against Keystone XL
[click to view]

Omaha-World Herald on Keystone XL alternative route approval
[click to view]

Hammel, Paul .2017. "Nebraska PSC grants landowners' request, sets hearing over next steps on Keystone XL pipeline." Omaha-World Herald.
[click to view]

[9] No one wants the Keystone XL pipeline, but Nebraska just approved it anyway. The existing Keystone pipeline spilled over 200,000 gallons of oil last week. Natasha Geiling. Nov 20, 2017
[click to view]

Media Links

[8] Solar XL - A Wave of Renewable Energy Resistance

Published by 360.org
[click to view]

Other Documents

Solar XL Bold Nebraska's Solar Farm in the path of the Keystone XL pipeline
[click to view]

Give Keystone XL The Boot March Give Keystone XL The Boot March in Lincoln, Nebraska. Aug 6, 2017.
[click to view]

No KXL Heartland Nebraska Crop Art
[click to view]

Other CommentsIn November 2017, "An independent, five-person panel voted to approve an alternative route for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline ... But the decision to approve an alternative route for the pipeline, rather than TransCanada’s preferred route, could open up a new set of issues for the Canadian energy company, which may need to reapply for permits with the Bureau of Land Management and Army Corps of Engineers, as well as potentially obtain a new review from the State Department".[9]
Meta Information
ContributorJames Joshua Young - [email protected] - Lund University
Last update07/12/2017