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Nebraska Flooding Points to Spill Risk from Keystone XL

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The “bomb cyclone”-driven flooding across the midwestern United States has become the latest in a litany of arguments against construction of the US$8-billion Keystone XL pipeline, with a Nebraska farmer, former oilfield worker, and avowed Republican pointing out that the rising waters could have triggered a spill on his property if the pipeline had been in place.

“Standing on the banks of the Keya Paha River where it cuts through his farm, Bob Allpress points across a flat expanse of sand to where a critical shut-off valve is supposed to rise from the Keystone XL pipeline once it’s buried in his land,” InsideClimate News reports. “The Keya Paha flooded several weeks ago, and when it did, the rush of newly-melted water drove debris, sand, and huge chunks of ice deep inland, mowing down trees and depositing a long wall of ice six feet high and 30 feet wide across Allpress’ property.”

“It would’ve taken out their shut-off valve,” he said. “Right where they propose to put it at. And it wouldn’t have been a good thing.”

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While Allpress has long opposed the project, “the catastrophic spring flooding [2] that devastated parts of Nebraska has swept that threat into the spotlight, as the Trump administration works to fast-track construction by overriding environmental reviews,” InsideClimate notes. But in the absence of those reviews, serious risks like flooding and erosion “haven’t been analyzed, and the pipeline is going to go forward without agencies fully understanding risks and threats to the project,” said U.S. Sierra Club lawyer Doug Hayes.

InsideClimate says Nebraska’s state Public Service Commission, which approved the pipeline route, cited litigation in declining to comment about possible flooding impacts. But Crystal Rhoades, one of two PSC commissioners who voted against the current route, wrote: “I continue to be concerned about the stability of the soils. I suspect we will see an increase in flooding events as climate change continues to exacerbate weather. I think the state would be doing a disservice to our constituents if we didn’t continue to monitor the impacts of climate change on our state and its infrastructure, including the KXL.”

Earlier this month, meanwhile, the Trump administration announced [3] it would complete a new environmental review of the project, even if a federal appeals court eventually rejects a successful lawsuit [4] in Montana that blocked the project. While claiming it’s “undisputed” that Trump’s latest permit for the project is not subject to major environmental legislation, lawyers said the U.S. State Department would still complete the review ordered by District Court Judge Brian Morris in November.

“An executive for Calgary-based TC Energy—formerly known as TransCanada—said the delays have caused the company to miss the 2019 construction season,” The Associated Press reports.