Nebraska’s governor signed a deal approving a route for the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, which would stretch from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada. The project was delayed last year by the White House.
Gov. Dave Heineman (R-Neb.) approved a plan that would allow the pipeline to travel through his state, according to a letter dated Tuesday to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The proposed plan “avoids the Sand Hills,” the largest wetland ecosystem in the United States, and also avoids several other areas of concern, the letter states. Originally, it was proposed that the Keystone pipeline would go through the Sand Hills, but that was rejected due to environmental concerns while there were also concerns that a potential oil spill would threaten the Ogallala Aquifer.
The letter states that the pipeline would still go through the “High Plains Aquifer, including the Ogallala group.” It added, “Impacts on aquifers from a release [of crude oil] should be localized and Keystone would be responsible for any cleanup.”
Heineman said that the pipeline would result in $418 million worth of economic benefits for Nebraska. The state would also see $16.5 million generated in taxes from the pipeline’s construction, along with $11 million to $13 million in property taxes.
When it was up for debate previously, the project was heavily criticized by environmentalists, while Republicans have said that the project is needed to generate jobs and help etch out the United States’s path toward energy sustainability.
Previously, environmental concerns forced the Obama administration to put the project on hiatus in January 2012.
Environmentalists and landowners in Nebraska said that the pipeline could potentially contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, which contains a large supply of groundwater.
Anthony Swift, energy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said on the NRDC Staff Blog, “[The governor’s] decision will not ease the concerns of Nebraskans worried about the impacts a spill could inflict the sensitive environments the pipeline would pass through.”
“If we are going to get serious about climate change, opening the spigot to a pipeline that will export up to 830,000 barrels of the dirtiest oil on the planet to foreign markets stands as a bad idea,” he wrote, referring to the oil extracted from the tar sands in northern Canada.
In his letter, Heineman said that Keystone builder TransCanada Corporation would come up with an emergency response plan if an oil spill were to take place.
TransCanada CEO and President Russ Girling stressed in a statement Tuesday that the pipeline will become a critical facet of the American economy.
“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,” Girling said in a news release.
“Keystone XL is the most studied cross-border pipeline ever proposed,” he said, “and it remains in America’s national interests to approve a pipeline that will have a minimal impact on the environment.”
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