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Governor OKs Nebraska’s Keystone route

By   /   January 22, 2013  /   13 Comments

ON THE ROUTE: An irrigation pivot remains still along Highway 14, several miles from the new route for the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska. The governor on Tuesday approved the route. (AP photo)

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN — Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has approved the rerouted Keystone XL oil pipeline path through Nebraska, putting the final decision squarely in the lap of President Obama’s administration.

His decision comes after reviewing a 2,000-page state report on the new route through Nebraska which found that the Keystone XL pipeline “could have minimal environmental impacts in Nebraska,” according to Nebraska’s environmental regulatory agency.

The Keystone XL project would move oil from Canada to Texas, including 195 miles through nine Nebraska counties. The U.S. State Department is working on its own environmental review of the proposed pipeline, which is expected to be released sometime in the first quarter of 2013.

Nebraska’s approval of the route puts pressure on Obama to live up to his promises to combat climate change — although labor unions have generally supported the pipeline and jobs it would bring. In his inaugural address Sunday, Obama promised to respond to the threat of climate change, saying failure to do so would “betray our children and future generations.”

In a letter to the State Department explaining his decision, Heineman cited the points made in the state Department of Environmental Quality report, which said the new route avoids the ecologically fragile Sandhills. The route still crosses portions of the Ogallala Aquifer, but the report claims any oil spill “should be localized” and TransCanada would be responsible for any cleanup. He noted construction of the pipeline is expected to create $418 million in economic benefits, according to the $5 million DEQ study, which was largely paid for by TransCanada, the Canadian company that wants to build the pipeline.

In areas of northern Nebraska where the soil is susceptible to erosion, TransCanada would use “special procedures” to build the pipeline. TransCanada also agreed to 57 “special conditions” governing the pipeline’s construction, operation and maintenance that would be enforced by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. 

The company agreed to carry at least $200 million in liability insurance to cover “sudden and accidental pollution incidents from Keystone XL Pipeline in Nebraska.” TransCanada first applied for a federal permit to build the pipeline in 2008, but ran into stiff opposition in Nebraska. In late 2011, TransCanada agreed to reroute the pipeline around the Sandhills, but the project still faces considerable opposition in the state, where about 800 people showed up for the final DEQ public hearing on the project in December.

TransCanada CEO Russ Girling welcomed the governor’s decision, saying it “moves us one step closer to Americans receiving the benefits of Keystone XL – the enhanced energy security it will provide and the thousands of jobs it will create.”

“The need for Keystone XL continues to grow 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,” he said in a press release. “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.”

Americans for Prosperity-Nebraska, a free-market advocacy group, applauded the governor for approving the revised route.

“Governor Heineman’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is an important step towards greater economic growth, energy security and the creation of thousands of new, good-paying jobs,” state director Brad Stevens said in a news release. “The majority of Nebraskans support this project because after years of thoughtful study and a reroute of the project that avoids the Sandhills, we recognize the project is safe and will be a catalyst for economic growth.”

But the grassroots group that mobilized in opposition to the pipeline in Nebraska, Bold Nebraska, said the governor just performed “one of the biggest flip-flops in Nebraska political history.”

“He approved the pipeline route that crosses the aquifer after he asked Obama to deny the route that crossed the aquifer,” Bold Nebraska leader Jane Kleeb said in an email. “Heineman also turns his back on landowners and citizens who asked for an unbiased review of the risks of this pipeline.”

Kleeb said “President Obama is our only hope now.”

“It is clear given what President Obama said about climate change yesterday (during his inauguration speech) that Heineman did not want to be on the same side as Obama. It is a shame when a politician these days can’t cross party line even to stand up for our water and family farmers and ranchers.”

Bold Nebraska is party to a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law giving the governor authority to approve the pipeline.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org. Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.

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Deena Winter is a reporter for NebraskaWatchdog.org. Contact her at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org and follow her on Twitter @DeenaNEWatchdog.

  • http://twitter.com/GerardHarbison Gerard Harbison

    “Help me, Obama-Wan-Kenobi, you’re my only hope!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/ricky.fulton Ricky Fulton

    If the Americans For Prosperity are for this pipeline then it must be bad. I predict it will never be built. Go Obama!

  • ProgressiveOasis

    Ricky Fulton are there any more such spectacularly wrong predictions you’d like to document here??? Your moronic thoughts are always hilarious and clearly demonstrate that you are the perfect Obama voter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001054865978 Mike Bishop

    Your name calling and ridiculing of others who have a right to their views and opinions as Americans destroys the credibility of your post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ricky.fulton Ricky Fulton

    Maybe your prefer the Romney side; at least I backed a winner. And Mr Obama won by a landslide. And as far as the pipeline; I predict Mr Obama’s environmentalist friends will carry the day and the President will nix the pipeline in favor of energy that does not contribute to global warming.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-H-Fromme/1629370162 Christopher H Fromme

    And I guess all the eviro-wacko’s would rather that we get oil from the middle east instead of Canada & North Dakota which this pipeline will serve. Thus we will always be begging counties that we have spent trillions to defend. American energy indepedence is a good security policy. You guy’s ride a bicycle.if you don’t like oil

  • ProgressiveOasis

    If President Obama disapproves the pipeline it won’t truly be because of so-called environmental concerns, it will be to protect Warren Buffet’s BNSF profits from a new serious low-cost competitor to moving Bakkan formation crude to market that an easily expanded KeystoneXL would represent. But then again, I don’t suppose President Obama would consider input from one of his most vocal and richest public supporters…do you???

  • ProgressiveOasis

    Thus speaks another perfect Obama voter…

  • Kevin

    Obama will ax the plan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.boyle.50 Pat Boyle

    I get your point that we’re buying secure oil-not funding terrorist states. The part that bothers me the most is the false point that gas prices will go down and we’ll be energy independent. The oil from Canada and North Dakota is not staying here. It’s going to be piped to a refinery and they shipped abroad. The USA had it’s largest oil exportation in a decades last year. This does not lower oil prices. Thanks for being man enough to use your name too.

  • cliveklg

    Here are comments from a leading Canadian energy expert in support of the Pipeline:

    “And with the International Energy Agency forecasting the U.S. achieving energy self-sufficiency by 2020, Keystone isn’t really about reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Not in the longer term. It’s about a route to Asia for Canadian oil, and diversifying our markets.”

    So not do we not need the pipeline with our current domestic growth, the real reason for the pipeline isn’t about getting it to the US consumer at all.

    Our politicians and TransCanada are outright lying to try to ramrod this through.

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/MacDonald+Energy+Canada+issue+2013/7766577/story.html#ixzz2GumHlYGV

  • cliveklg

    Thus speaks someone who regularly does the same, so of course you’d approve.

  • cliveklg

    Here are comments from a leading Canadian energy expert in support of the Pipeline:

    “And with the International Energy Agency forecasting the U.S. achieving energy self-sufficiency by 2020, Keystone isn’t really about

    reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Not in the longer term. It’s about a route to Asia for Canadian oil, and diversifying our markets.”

    So not do we not need the pipeline with our current domestic growth, the real reason for the pipeline isn’t about getting it to the US consumer at all.

    Our politicians and TransCanada are outright lying to try to ramrod this through.

    http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/MacDonald+Energy+Canada+issue+2013/7766577/story.html#ixzz2GumHlYGV

    And btw the refineries in TX this pipeline are going to are owned by Middle Eastern nations including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Yes they own refineries in TX.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motiva_Enterprises

    http://www.arabianamericandev.com/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_S.A.

    Pretty sure there are several others owned as a whole or partially. So the whole mid-east fear thing is completely ridiculous given their involvement won’t change.

    The whole national security claim by people like yourself is so uninformed on multiple levels. Not only the fact we are on track to be completely energy independent, but on the refinery ownership, and where the oil is really intended to go.

    And that is just refineries here in the US. It doesn’t consider how much Mid-East investment is on the mining end of the Tar Sands in Canada. Which they are heavily invested it.

    So please spare us the faux Mid-East outrage.

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