A small delay in relocating the beetle could set back the project by many months because the insects can be trapped and moved only during the spring and summer.
But TransCanada said the ruling is not yet an issue because the company still has not finalized its route through Nebraska. Until the route is determined, it is unclear if or how much it would affect the endangered insect.
“It's going to take several more months and into next year to finish the permitting,” Prescott said. “The groups making these claims are getting ahead of themselves with this issue. There's more time to work on getting the permits and to deal with this issue along the way.”
The American Burying Beetle has been listed as an endangered species since 1989, but regulations were expanded in 2002 when it was discovered that drilling and pipeline operations can harm the species by disturbing larvae even though the adult beetle is only active from May to September.
Unlike most endangered species, the burying beetle is not limited to a specific habitat. The bug once thrived in 35 states and three Canadian provinces, but decades of development have driven the species to near extinction, conservationists say.
Today, the beetle is known to live only in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas and Rhode Island, with much smaller populations in South Dakota and Kansas, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.