Nebraska regulators approve Keystone XL pipeline route in win for Trump

LINCOLN, Nebraska/WASHINGTON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Nebraska regulators voted on Monday to approve TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline route through the state, lifting the last big regulatory obstacle for the long-delayed project that U.S. President Donald Trump wants built.

The 3-2 decision by the Nebraska Public Service Commission helps clear the way for the proposed 1,179-mile (1,897-km) pipeline linking Canada's Alberta oil sands to U.S. refineries, but is likely to be challenged in court by the project's opponents who say it poses an environmental risk.

Trump, a Republican, has made Keystone XL’s success a plank in his effort to boost the U.S. energy industry. Environmentalists, meanwhile, have made the project a symbol of their broader fight against fossil fuels and global warming.

RELATED: A look at the Keystone XL pipeline project

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A sixty-foot section of pipe is lowered into a trench during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Gulf Coast Project, a 485-mile crude oil pipeline being constructed by TransCanada Corp., is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project and will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
TransCanada President and CEO Russ Girling (2nd L) announces the new Energy East Pipeline during a news conference in Calgary, Alberta, August 1, 2013. TransCanada Corp on Thursday said it would move ahead with a $12 billion oil pipeline to ship Western Canada's oil sands crude to refiners on its east coast and beyond, scaling up the project as its U.S.-bound Keystone XL line stalls in Washington. REUTERS/Todd Korol/File Photo
Shayne Walker, a weld inspector, fills out paperwork during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Prague, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Gulf Coast Project, a 485-mile crude oil pipeline being constructed by TransCanada Corp., is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project and will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS - SEPT12: The Valero refinery works glow in the dusk light in Port Arthur, Texas. The state of Texas has placed a historical plaque noting that this area is near where the oil boom started in 1901. Port Arthur, Texas is the end of the line for oil that would travel through the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
A depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline is seen in Gascoyne, North Dakota, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
BUTTE, NEBRASKA - JULY 04: The Keystone XL pipeline at one point was going to run through the sensitive Sand Hills areas of Nebraska west of Butte, Nebraska. The pipeline has been rerouted and now skirts the Sand Hills, but still goes under the Niobrara River area pictured here.(Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
VALENTINE, NEBRASKA - JULY 04: The Keystone XL pipeline at one point was going to run through the sensitive Sand Hills areas of Nebraska in the vicinity of Valentine, Nebraska. The pipeline has been rerouted to the east and now avoids the sensitive the Sand Hills, so it will not pass through this area at the Minnechaduza Creek. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
North Dakota rancher Bob Banderet stands in front of the Keystone pumping station that dumped 500-barrels of tar sands crude on the North Dakota prairie outside of the small town of Cogswell. Bandaret witnessed the spill from his nearby farmhouse and alerted authorities, even before TransCanada was aware of the break. From Oil and Water: Following the route of the Keystone XL pipeline through the USA. (Photo by Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS - SEPT12: The Valero refinery looms on the horizon in Port Arthur Texas. Port Arthur, Texas is the end of the line for oil that would travel through the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS - SEPT12: Maintenance work is constant at the Valero refinery in Port Arthur, Texas. Port Arthur, Texas is the end of the line for oil that would travel through the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Equipment sits near a section of pipeline during construction of the Gulf Coast Project pipeline in Atoka, Oklahoma, U.S., on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Gulf Coast Project, a 485-mile crude oil pipeline being constructed by TransCanada Corp., is part of the Keystone XL Pipeline Project and will run from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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The proposed line has been a lightning rod of controversy since it was first advocated nearly a decade ago. The administration of former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, considered the project for years before rejecting it in 2015 on environmental grounds.

Trump swiftly reversed that decision after coming into office this year, handing TransCanada a federal permit for the pipeline in March and arguing the project will lower fuel prices, boost national security, and bring jobs.

That decision placed the pipeline's fate into the hands of the obscure regulatory body in Nebraska, the only state that had yet to approve the pipeline’s route. (Reporting by Kevin O'Hanlon and Valerie Volcovici; additional reporting by Nia Williams and Ethan Lou in Calgary; Writing by Richard Valdmanis; editing by Grant McCool)

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