Oil pipeline foes celebrate barn in project’s path

YORK, Neb. — Opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline celebrated the completion of a barn built in the project’s expected path on Sunday while U.S. officials continue to weigh whether to approve the pipeline.

Pipeline opponents planned several events to thank volunteers and mark the completion of the solar- and wind-powered barn.

Billionaire investor and philanthropist Tom Steyer was scheduled to speak at Sunday’s dedication ceremony. Steyer has spent more than $2 million fighting the pipeline that’s designed to carry Canadian crude oil to the Gulf Coast.

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The barn has been constructed about 15 miles northwest of York.

The groups behind the barn project say pipeline firm TransCanada will have to either destroy the barn or tweak the pipeline route if it gets permission to build the project.

TransCanada first applied to build the pipeline more than five years ago, but it is still waiting to hear whether President Barack Obama will approve a permit for it.

The Keystone XL pipeline is designed to carry oil from Canada across Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. TransCanada also has proposed connecting it to the Bakken oil field in Montana and North Dakota.

Pipeline opponents have said they worry that a leak could contaminate underground and surface water supplies and they worry about increases in air pollution around refineries and harm to wildlife.

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TransCanada says the project will have upgraded safety measures, including remote control shut-off valves and frequent inspections.

The company also altered the pipeline’s path through Nebraska to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region and a couple towns’ drinking water wells.

TransCanada has also split the project into two pieces. The company began construction last year on the southern section of the pipeline between Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast.