In one of the last major hurdles for the beleaguered Keystone XL pipeline, a Nebraska court cleared TC Energy's (formerly TransCanada Pipeline) route through the state on Friday without the company having to re-start the approval process.

The company’s preferred route was rejected by state regulators who then offered an alternate. Opponents argued the company should have to start its application over from scratch, including environmental studies.

The $8-billion project has been bogged down by lawsuits and regulatory hearings since 2008 when it was first proposed.

The pipeline would give Alberta access to the refineries of the Texas Gulf Coast.

Environmental and Native American groups have pledged to protest along the route if construction is approved.

"Today’s decision by the Nebraska Supreme Court is an important step forward to expanding market access for Canada’s oil and natural gas resources,” said Tim McMillan with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) in a statement.

“The decision to uphold approval of Keystone XL is a clearer path forward to getting Canadian oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast, and will relieve existing bottlenecks on already-constrained pipeline systems."

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney also praised the decision.

“In all of our government’s engagement with U.S. officials, we have consistently stated that this pipeline is critical to North American security and prosperity. Alberta is a stable, secure and responsible energy supplier to the United States that can be relied on at a time of geopolitical uncertainty," he said.

“As we have seen all too often, opponents of responsible energy development will continue efforts to block and obstruct progress. We will continue to be vigilant and engage wherever possible to make this project a reality."

Darren Bilous, critic for the economic development and trade ministry, isued a statement calling the decision "a positive step forward for Alberta energy product."

“During the previous term of government, Rachel Notley, Margaret McCuaig-Boyd and myself made repeated missions to lawmakers and industry in the United States to underscore the importance of Keystone XL," he said.

“Our government committed to shipping 50,000 barrels per day from the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission via Keystone XL, which helped secure the economic case for the pipeline’s construction.

“We are also pleased to see construction restarted on the TMX project, which our government championed on the national stage and rallied a majority of Canadians and British Columbians behind."

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt called the move "another positive step forward, but it's not the finish line."

“IIt’s far away from the finish line. I think there’s going to be skeptics right up until the day time that the first oil flows through the pipe," he said.

Energy Minister Sonya Savage also said she expects opposition to continue, despite the ruling.

“They stall it for years sometimes at a time, and the court comes back and says the project is needed, safe and in the public interest, and it doesn’t end there," she said. 

"They organize opposition, and protests and civil insurrection and it goes on and on and on and on."