After a nearly decade-long fight over its construction—which grew to include three states, two provinces, several indigenous tribes, tens of thousands of activists, and two U.S. presidents—the Keystone XL pipeline seemed set to clear its final major hurdle on Monday morning.
By a vote of 3-2, the Nebraska Public Service Commission voted to allow the pipeline to pass through the state. The commission’s vote was the last significant regulatory approval that Keystone XL required before construction could begin. Montana, South Dakota, and the U.S. federal government already okayed the 1,100-mile-long project this year.
But—in a twist—the Nebraska commission’s vote might have merely opened a new chapter in the saga. While the commissioners approved Keystone XL, they also ordered that the pipeline take an alternate route through the state. The new route—which adds a 63-mile detour and parallels a preexisting pipeline—increases the cost and legal difficulties of an already expensive and delayed project.
The commissioners said they were forcing the new route because Keystone XL must “take advantage of any opportunity” to run along the preexisting pipeline corridor.
TransCanada, the pipeline’s developer, did not seem to celebrate the approval. Russ Girling, its president and chief executive officer, said in a statement that the company was “assessing how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project.” He also assured investors that the company was pursuing other improvements.