Nebraska governor approves Keystone XL pipeline’s new route

This article was updated Jan. 22 with additional comments.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) notified US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton that he has approved the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline’s new route across the state.

Heineman asked that a final evaluation report by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality be included in the State Department’s supplemental environmental impact statement on the proposed pipeline which would transport bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to US Midcontinent and Gulf Coast refineries.

Heineman took the action because the new route avoids Nebraska’s Sand Hills region, his office said on Jan. 22.

TransCanada Corp., the project’s sponsor, said the approved reroute now becomes part of the new presidential permit application which it filed on May 4, 2012.

“Over the past year, we have been listening to Nebraskans as we worked to identify a new route for the Keystone XL Pipeline that avoided the Sand Hills, protected sensitive areas, and addressed as many concerns as possible,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada’s chief executive officer. “The NDEQ process has clearly taken into account the input from Nebraskans.”

The project’s need grows stronger as North American oil production increases and having the right infrastructure in place is critical to meet the goal of reducing dependence on foreign oil, Girling said, adding, “Keystone XL is the most studied cross-border pipeline ever proposed, and it remains in America’s national interests to approve a pipeline that will have a minimal impact on the environment.

Associations welcome news

Officials from two US petroleum trade associations welcomed the news. American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Pres. Charles T. Drevna said Heineman’s allowing the pipeline to cross Nebraska brings the country a step closer to economic growth and energy security.

DOS has concluded that the pipeline will have a degree of safety greater than any typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current regulations, he added. “With 79% of Americans in support of construction, President Obama has been given a clear mandate to approve the pipeline,” Drevna said.

The governor’s approval means the proposed project has cleared another major hurdle, American Petroleum Institute Executive Vice-President Marty Durbin separately noted.

“With the approval from Nebraska in hand, the president can be confident that the remaining environmental concerns have been addressed,” Durbin maintained. “Together with the thousands of building trades jobs that will be created almost immediately, Keystone XL is most definitely in our nation’s interest.”

Keystone XL opponents condemned the move. BOLD Nebraska Founder Jane Kleeb said Heineman performed one of the biggest political flip-flops in Nebraska history by approving a pipeline route that crosses one aquifer after asking President Obama to deny one that crossed another.

“President Obama is Nebraska’s only hope now as our governor and legislature have failed,” she wrote in a blog posted at the group’s web site. “You cannot say the words the president did in his inaugural address and then turn around and approve the pipeline. That is crystal clear, as clear as the Ogallala Aquifer is without this risky export tar sands pipeline.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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