Even without any action by President Donald Trump, Friday, March 24, 2017 would have been a marked day for environmental activists.
After having its first two applications rejected, Calgary-based TransCanada submitted its latest application for the 1,800-kilometre artery in late January specifically at the request of U.S. President Donald Trump.
It will carry oil from tar sands in Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.
Sara Shor, a campaign manager for the climate advocacy group 350.org, vowed to "raise hell at the national level" and recruit millions of people to fight the project, including by highlighting their concerns during lawmakers' town halls during a planned congressional recess next month.
The state department says that it is confident that building Keystone serves the USA national interest.
Trump, however, has continued to make the false claim that the pipe for Keystone XL will be "manufactured right here" in the USA, including on Monday night at his rally in Louisville, Kentucky.
The pipeline's fate once again rests with the Nebraska Public Service Commission, an independently elected group of four Republicans and one Democrat.
In announcing the approval, Trump took a shot at Barack Obama's decision to block the pipeline, which the former president said would not "serve the national interests" of the U.S.
TransCanada, the Canadian company behind the project, encountered fierce opposition from landowners and activists during its initial proposed route and successive legal challenges over the legality of maneuvering around plots of land eventually brought the project to a standstill. The new pipeline would allow for more crude oil from Canada to be transported south.
The Trump administration will approve the Keystone XL pipeline by early next week, according to sources knowledgeable of the plan, reportsPolitico.
"The oil is flowing through rail and other pipelines regardless, so whether Keystone goes through or is blocked, the effect on greenhouse gas emissions will be minimal", said Andrew Hoffman, the education director at the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute. "Frankly, approving that project would have undercut that global leadership, and that is the biggest risk we face: not acting". TransCanada will "continue to engage key stakeholders and neighbours" in Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota to obtain required permits and approvals for the project's construction, according to the statement.
"The presidential permit for the Keystone XL is a welcome step forward to securing improved energy infrastructure in Nebraska and nationally, while also creating jobs and ensuring our energy independence", Ricketts said in a statement Friday.
A map of the proposed pipeline (blue) and the pipeline that's already in place (red). The project's tangled history includes lawsuits, dozens of state and federal hearings, and threats of protests in Nebraska that could resemble the Dakota Access Pipeline showdown in North Dakota.
Many observers predicted that a Keystone decision was forthcoming after TransCanada opted to drop a $15 billion NAFTA complaint against the US earlier this week.
Including work indirectly related to the construction, the number of jobs balloons to 42,100, the State Department estimated.