Somewhere in Canada, a TransCanada executive has a big checklist on his wall. At the bottom, circled in red: “Approval of Keystone XL!!!!” Until today, only two checkboxes remained unchecked. But now, there’s only one, because he’s put a big fat X next to “Get OK from Nebraska.” The Times reports:

Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska approved on Tuesday a revised route for the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska, brushing aside vocal opposition from some citizen groups and putting final approval of the pipeline project squarely in the hands of the Obama administration.

Governor Heineman, a Republican, said in a letter to Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that his state’s review found that the new route avoided sensitive lands and aquifers. Mr. Obama had rejected the previous route last January on the grounds that construction of the pipeline threatened Nebraska’s Sand Hills region and that a spill could contaminate the critical Ogallala Aquifer.

For now, anyway
For now, anyway.
Thomas Beck Photo

This was basically the bare minimum of what TransCanada needed to demonstrate: that a spill wouldn’t permanently ruin a critical source of water used for irrigation. Last October, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality OK’d the new proposed route. Last month, hundreds of Nebraskans attended a public meeting to dispute those findings — and to suggest that any spill would be hugely problematic.

The governor has a response for that.

Mr. Heineman said that the pipeline’s operator, TransCanada, had assured him and state environmental officials that the chances of a spill would be minimized and that the company would assume all responsibility for a cleanup in case of an accident.

Pipeline spills are like pregnancy. There’s only one guaranteed way to prevent them: abstinence. But tell Nebraska that you’ll always be there for it, and the state is ready to be screwed.

It wasn’t just TransCanada’s VP of Checkbox Checking that was giddy.

The American Petroleum Institute, a strong advocate of the project, applauded Nebraska’s action, saying that it removed a critical hurdle to completion of the pipeline.

“With the approval from Nebraska in hand, the president can be confident that the remaining environmental concerns have been addressed,” said Marty Durbin, the oil lobby’s executive vice president. “We hope President Obama will finally greenlight KXL as soon as possible and get more Americans back to work.”

Though not as many Americans as the industry likes to pretend.

So there’s only one last checklist item. TransCanada still needs approval from the Obama administration to build Keystone XL across the Canadian border. The decision ostensibly lies with the State Department, but, ultimately, it’s with the president himself. Yesterday, he pledged to combat climate change, in stronger language than he’s used in years. Whether or not the Keystone pipeline meets his standard for combat remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, that guy at TransCanada HQ has his marker hovering over that tantalizingly empty box.