CALGARY – Nebraska state officials say an oil spill from the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota won’t affect their decision to approve or deny a route for the related Keystone XL project.
A spokeswoman for the Nebraska Public Service Commission said Friday that commissioners will base their decision solely on evidence presented during public hearings and from official public comments.
TransCanada Corp. said its Keystone pipeline leaked an estimated 795,000 litres of oil in Marshall County, S.D. Thursday, just days before Nebraska is set to decide the fate of its Keystone XL pipeline.
Supporters and opponents of the project argued their cases to the commission at a four-day hearing in August.
A Nebraska law approved in 2011 prevents the commissioners from factoring pipeline safety or the possibility of leaks into their decisions. Lawmakers argued at the time that pipeline safety was a federal responsibility that pre-empts state law. Opponents say oil interests lobbied for the restriction.
The company (TSX:TRP) said its crews shut down the Keystone pipeline system between Hardisty, Alta. to Cushing, Okla, and a line to Patoka, Ill. and that the line is expected to remain shut while it responds to the spill.
The pipeline delivers oil from Canada to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma. A Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration representative said Friday that the agency’s investigation is ongoing.
Opponents of Keystone XL say the pipeline would pass through the Sandhills, an ecologically fragile region of grass-covered sand dunes, and would cross the land of farmers and ranchers who don’t want it.
“Just days before the Nebraska Public Service Commissions decides on whether to approve Keystone XL we get a painful reminder of why no one wants a pipeline over their water supply,” said Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema.
The Sierra Club was also quick to condemn the spill, urging the commission not to vote for the project.
“We’ve always said it’s not a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but when, and today TransCanada is making our case for us,” said campaign director Kelly Martin.
The pipeline would transport oilsands oil from Alberta through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines that feed Texas Gulf Coast refineries.