- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The U.S. State Department may have removed a hurdle for the Keystone XL pipeline with its report on Friday, but it didn’t sway the entrenched foes and supporters in Nebraska.

Supporters argued that the report, which raised no major environmental objections to the project, leaves President Barack Obama no choice but to approve the entire Canada-to-Texas pipeline. Opponents said they still plan to fight the pipeline in court while holding a series of public vigils in Omaha, Lincoln, York and O’Neill. Project foes also said they were also looking to the outcome of a lawsuit challenging the state law that allowed the pipeline to proceed in Nebraska.

The pipeline, which has grown into a symbol of the political debate over climate change, has won support from congressional Republicans and some gas- and oil-producing states in the U.S. But opponents say the pipeline would carry “dirty oil” that contributes to global warming, and they also express concern about possible spills.

“After over five years, President Obama is out of excuses,” said U.S. Rep. Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican. “There is no question that moving forward with Keystone XL is in our national interest.”

Bruce Boettcher, a Bassett rancher who opposes the pipeline, said he still views the project as a threat because it crosses through sandy, fragile soil. The proposed pipeline was rerouted amid concerns over its original path through the environmentally delicate Nebraska Sandhills.

“The re-route was only to pacify people,” Boettcher said. “It’s just to manipulate them so they can get this pipeline through.”

Jane Kleeb, executive director of the group Bold Nebraska, said the report still gives the president an opening to reject a permit for the pipeline. The project requires federal approval because it crosses the U.S.-Canadian border.

“I think what this means for us is that we have a very busy three months to try to make sure that our position is advocated strongly” to Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, she said.

Brad Miller of the Omaha-based Laborers’ Local 1140, a union group, said numerous reviews have found no significant problems with the pipeline.

“This report, like all other reports over the last five years, shows it’s time to move forward,” Miller said.

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