The Keystone XL Pipeline expansion project was effectively killed a few weeks ago when President Obama officially denied a federal permit for the environmentally disastrous plan. That hasn’t stopped TransCanada from wanting to move forward. While the Canadian oil company may have officially withdrawn its application to build the pipeline across Nebraska on November 18, but they also reiterated their desire to complete the project someday.
“Although we are withdrawing the application at this time,” reads a statement by spokesman Mark Cooper, “we are reserving the right to reapply to [The Nebraska Public Service Commision] at a later date and remain committed to completing the final leg of the Keystone Pipeline system.
While the pipeline expansion’s primary opposition has come from environmental groups, there was also significant pushback from private property rights advocates. Landowners in Nebraska had protested the use of eminent domain and easements to seize their land, and native groups also expressed serious concerns about similar issues across reservation lands.
Even though the project is currently stalled, it could easily be revived if a friendlier president to the project were to get into office. Most, if not all, of the GOP candidates would likely push to move it forward, and what Hillary Clinton’s stance on the project is anybody’s guess as her recent flip-flopping on many issues, including this one, during her campaign shows she is willing to do whatever she deems politically expedient for the moment.
The bad news is that the foreign oil company still holds easement rights to many properties in Nebraska and other states — a major cause for concern for the rightful owners of those lands. The way they got those easements in the first place is extremely suspect, as they worked with previous Governor Dave Heineman to do an end run around the Public Service Commission. The courts were divided on the issue in the state, but ultimately the crony capitalism won out, a move that has proven extremely unpopular with property rights advocates.
Those easements can now be sold to another entity for use, or even used to build a different pipeline. TransCanada may even just sit on them pending next year’s election in case they are able to move forward with this plan under a new president.
The only thing clear at this point is that the Keystone Pipeline XL expansion will not move forward for the time being. While this is certainly a major victory for environmentalists, property rights advocates, and small government supporters, it still has the potential to be short lived.