CoalNatural Gas

Keystone Carries On

TC Energy Corp finished repairs last month after spilling more than 383,000 gallons in North Dakota at the end of October 2019. That spill was the fourth spill in three years for the passionately-debated Keystone Pipeline. But, one corridor of the pipeline is holding strong. The city of Port Neches in Texas has just shown its support for the crude oil pipeline in approving connector lines to its local refinery, Motiva.

Beaumont Oil Enterprise
Photo Courtesy of Guiseppe Barranco | Beaumont Enterprise

From the city

TC Energy and Motiva entered into an agreement earlier this year that would build a connection between existing assets and the Keystone Pipeline to be completed by summer 2020. CEO and President of TransCanada said the additions to Motiva were just an example of the intended reach of the Keystone Pipeline.

The city council approved two crude oil pipeline sections to enter its existing corridor for Motiva and TC Energy. Port Neches City Manager Andre Wimer called the additional segments “significant” in size and will be about five miles long. The corridor is in use by several pipelines, including some that are owned by the two companies.

The Beaumont Interconnect, as the pipeline is called, uses the existing right-of-way and will go through the city. The proposed line does cross near a local school, Port Neches-Groves High School.

Approval in times of uncertainty

The approval of the permit to add these lines seemed fairly routine. Neither local news sources reported concerns from the city council, nor the school board of the nearby high school.

Though repairs to the pipeline following the October 2019 spill occurred in a matter of weeks, TC Energy continues its pressure restriction at 20 percent. However, the social pressure would appear daunting on the major oil mover.

Port Neches stands behind the expansion of the pipeline in the midst of this major project’s day in court.

Construction obstruction

In the last weeks of November 2019, conservationists and landowners filed their opening brief in the federal case that challenges the Keystone XL pipeline. The Sierra Club has been vocal against the massive spills from the pipeline. Doug Hayes, a senior attorney with the Sierra Club, has named danger zones in proximity to major waterways (such as the Missouri River).

The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity alongside landowners and other environmental groups are suing the Army Corps of Engineers for the issuance of a general permit for utility and pipeline projects under the Clean Water Act. The plaintiffs argue that the Army Corps of Engineers did adequately asses the effects of Keystone XL on waterways, local lands, wildlife, and communities. This case follows a 2018 case in the District Court of Montana in which a federal judged blocked construction and ordered an environmental review.

Small gains

However, the pipeline has had its legal successes. In August 2019, the Nebraska Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit against a change in the pipeline’s route that would take Keystone XL eastward rather than the original plan to connect through Boone and Jefferson counties. The alternative plan (approved by the state’s Public Service Commission) would join Keystone XL with the existing pipeline in a more direct course, which connects Madison and Colfax counties. Though TC Energy has jumped one hurdle, CEO and President Russ Girling calls it only a step in advancing the project (Hammel, 2019).

Alternative Rout of the Keystone XL Pipeline
This map is courtesy of the Omaha World-Herald.


Jacob Dick (2019). “Keystone, Motiva pipeline sections approved in Port Neches” Beaumont Enterprise 

Adam Wernick (2019). “Keystone oil spill casts doubt on the safety of proposed Keystone XL pipeline” Public Radio International

Submitted Content (2019). “Conservation, landowner groups file opening brief in challenge to Keystone XL pipeline” Hastings Tribune

PA News. “TC Energy proposes pipeline in Port Neches”

Jonathan Berman (2019). “Conservation, Landowners Groups File Opening Brief in Legal Challenge to Keystone XL Pipeline” Sierra Club 

Paul Hammel (2019). “Nebraska Supreme Court upholds route of controversial Keystone XL pipeline” Omaha World-Herald

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