From Nebraska to Federal Court, the Sierra Club Keeps Up the Fight on Keystone XL

It’s been a long road in the fight to protect our land, water, communities, and climate from TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Right now, a focus of the fight is what is happening in the courts, where Sierra Club and our allies are continuing our work to stop this terrible project.

In November, the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) dealt TransCanada a major setback by rejecting the company’s preferred route through the state and instead approving an alternate route. Though an outright rejection would have been the best outcome, this was still a victory for our side. TransCanada had previously called the alternate route unworkable, and the PSC’s decision creates new legal issues, raises new environmental review questions, and affects a whole new set of landowners who have not agreed to let TransCanada build on their land.

Along with Bold Alliance, we laid the groundwork for this victory through our intervention in the PSC process, working closely with landowners and Tribes to coordinate legal strategy and presenting key evidence and legal arguments that led the PSC to reject TransCanada’s preferred route. The Sierra Club and Bold were assigned the role of “natural resources intervenors,” which essentially refers to all the people who care about protecting our planet and thus have a stake in keeping Keystone XL from being built. That meant that, in addition to the 2,000 people in the Nebraska Chapter and the 3 million Sierra Club members and supporters nationwide, our team represented the interests of everyone who wants a better planet, who wants to combat climate change, and who wants to stop wasteful fossil fuel infrastructure projects.

Throughout this process, we also worked to develop the issues and present evidence that will put us in a strong position for the appeal of the PSC’s approved route, which was initiated by the landowners in December and recently taken up by the Nebraska Supreme Court. The parties will file briefs later this spring, with oral arguments to occur in the summer or fall.

Meanwhile, we are continuing our challenge of the pipeline in federal court. The district court recently denied the government’s attempt to throw out the case, and agreed to hear the merits of the lawsuit. We are now making a strong case that the State Department -- which issued the permit for the pipeline at Donald Trump’s instruction last year -- must go back and conduct a thorough review of the pipeline’s environmental impacts, rather than relying on an outdated and inadequate review from 2014. This case is even stronger now that TransCanada has a route through Nebraska that has never been analyzed at all.

We expect TransCanada to announce a final decision soon on whether or not they will continue to pursue the project in spite of all these setbacks -- not to mention tepid market demand -- but even if they opt to try and move forward, we are confident we will stop them.

We’ve held off construction of this dirty, dangerous pipeline for over seven years, and we’re not stopping now. The Sierra Club will keep fighting, in the streets and in the courts, until we finally defeat Keystone XL once and for all.