Nebraska’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline was a key step in supporters’ years-long fight to build the controversial project.
But the decision raised fresh questions about the future of the pipeline, which is still many regulatory and legal decisions away from the getting the final green light.
Here’s what to watch as the debate over the $8 billion, 830,000-barrel-per-day Keystone XL pipeline moves forward.
Developers need more permits
Nebraska’s decision Monday to approve the pipeline route was a landmark moment in the Keystone saga, but it’s not the final time regulators will decide the pipeline’s fate.
The Bureau of Land Management needs to issue a permit allowing pipeline construction on a small swatch of federal land along its path, said Sierra Club senior attorney Doug Hayes. The Army Corps of Engineers also has to authorize its construction over waterways along the route.
The Trump administration has aggressively supported the Keystone proposal, issuing a presidential permit in March allowing the pipeline to cross the U.S.-Canada border.
Moving Keystone forward is one of the first-year accomplishments President Trump most likes to bring up, raising the possibility developer TransCanada gets the final federal permits it requires.
Montana and South Dakota have previously issued permits allowing construction of the pipelines in their states. That made Nebraska a last-ditch spot for opponents of the project to influence regulators: officials held public meetings on the pipeline and considered 500,000 comments before approving the project.
Legal challenges are on the horizon
Opponents have tried to raise legal barriers to Keystone on both the state and federal level.
Tribes and landowners that oppose the pipeline are still suing over South Dakota’s decision to grant construction permits to developers. Their lawsuit is pending before that state’s Supreme Court.
On the federal level, a coalition of environmental groups want the courts to reconsider Trump’s permitting decision, arguing the State Department relied on an outdated environmental review when issuing the cross-border permit.
A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a request from TransCanada and the Trump administration to dismiss that lawsuit, meaning the court is likely to review the State Department’s environmental assessment.
Nebraska’s decision is also subject to legal challenges, something opponents have promised to pursue.
The pipeline has…