Nebraska Regulators Cannot Consider Pipeline Leaks While Approving Keystone XL

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More than 200,000 galloons of crude oil leaked from the Keystone Pipeline into a grassy field in South Dakota on Thursday—but regulators in neighboring Nebraska won't be able to consider the accident while approving a pipeline in their own state, officials say.

A 2011 Nebraska law prevents the state's Public Service Commission from factoring pipeline safety and leaks into its decision, because it's considered a federal issue and thus out of the state's purview, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Instead, regulators will evaluate previous testimony and documents from public hearings, Nebraska Public Service Commission spokeswoman Deb Collins told the AP.

"The commission's decision ... will be based on the evidence in the record," she said.

State regulators will announce their decision on the Keystone XL's permits Monday—the last regulatory hurdle for company TransCanada, which also operates the Keystone Pipeline. The Keystone XL, which is part of the same pipeline network, would carry an estimated 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada though the Great Plains.

Still, the spill in South Dakota—the latest of several leaks along the Keystone in recent years—has bolstered critics and worried Nebraskans with farms at risk of oil contamination.

"It's hard to believe they won't hear about this massive spill," Doug Hayes, a senior attorney for the Sierra Club's Environmental Law Program, told the Hill. "It's one of the biggest concerns to Nebraskans."

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