The Montana Land Board, in a 5-0 vote, agreed to grant TransCanada right-of-way for 39 parcels designated in the state for pipeline construction. TransCanada pays $741,673 under the terms of the 50-year easements, the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune reports.
Opponents of the project said the planned route would take the pipeline through the Milk, Missouri and Yellowstone rivers in Montana. Jim Jensen, executive director of the Montana Environmental Information Center, said it was too soon to step into the pipeline debate because the U.S. government has yet to sign off on the project.
"You are not dealing with your normal everyday crude oil in this pipeline," he was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
Keystone XL would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada. A 2010 spill of that type of crude oil in Michigan was the costliest onshore incident of its kind. Last year, a section of the Silvertip pipeline ruptured during flooding in the Yellowstone River, releasing 1,500 barrels of oil.
Last week, a Texas judge lifted a restraining order against TransCanada. A landowner there said the company offered misleading information about the type of oil designated for the pipeline.
TransCanada is building the domestic leg of the pipeline. It needs federal approval for the whole project because it would cross the U.S. border with Canada.