Nebraska DEQ sees minimal impacts with revised Keystone XL route

Construction and operation of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline along its revised route, with the necessary mitigation measures, could have minimal environmental impacts on Nebraska, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality said on Jan. 4.

The project’s operator, TransCanada Corp., would be required to develop an emergency response plan and be financially responsible for any spill, DEQ said in its final evaluation of the pipeline’s revised route across the state. It submitted the more than 2,000-page report on Jan. 2 to Gov. Dave Heineman (R), who has up to 30 days to review it.

The project’s new route avoids the Sand Hills but would cross the High Plains Aquifer, including the Ogallala Group, according to the final evaluation. It said the new route avoids many fragile soil areas in northern Nebraska and a shallow groundwater up-gradient west of a wellhead protection area where the aquifer is thin, wells are shallow, and bedrock is close to the surface.

Affected agricultural operations could resume the season after the pipeline’s construction was completed, it added.

The final evaluation contains new economic impact information specific to Nebraska that TransCanada provided and that DEQ reviewed and reanalyzed. It said the project’s construction would result in $418.1 million in economic benefits and would support up to 4,560 new or existing jobs in the state.

Another $16.5 million of use taxes from pipeline construction materials would be generated, and annual local property tax revenue, during the pipeline’s first full year of operation, would be $11-13 million, DEQ’s final evaluation said.

Keystone XL opponents were critical. “Gov. Heineman asked [US President Barack] Obama to deny the pipeline permit because the route crossed the Ogallala Aquifer,” said BOLD Nebraska Executive Director Jane Kleeb. “We look forward to the governor denying the route since it still crosses the aquifer, and since the risks to our state’s economy and identity remain at the forefront of this fight.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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