Nebraska governor OKs XL pipeline

  • Article by: JOHN M. BRODER
  • New York Times
  • January 22, 2013 - 8:38 PM

Gov. Dave Heineman on Tuesday approved a revised route for the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska, brushing aside opposition from some citizen groups and putting final approval of the project squarely in the hands of the Obama administration.

The decision came a day after President Obama made an assertive pledge in his inaugural address to tackle climate change. Opponents of the pipeline, which would bring heavy crude oil from tar sands formations in Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast, say that its extraction and consumption will significantly worsen global warming.

Heineman, a Republican, said in a letter to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that his state's review found that the new route avoided sensitive lands and aquifers. Obama had rejected the previous route last January on the grounds that construction of the pipeline threatened Nebraska's Sand Hills region and that a spill could contaminate the critical Ogallala Aquifer.

Heineman said that the pipeline's operator, TransCanada, had assured him that the chances of a spill would be minimized and that the company would assume all responsibility for a cleanup in case of an accident.

The State Department, which must review the 1,700-mile pipeline because it crosses an international border, is in the final stages of preparing an environmental impact statement. An earlier version found that the project would have minimal adverse effects.

The American Petroleum Institute applauded Nebraska's action, saying it removed a critical hurdle to completion of the pipeline.

Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, a citizens' advocacy group, assailed Heineman's move. "On the one hand, it's shocking the governor would turn his back so clearly on the Ogallala Aquifer and property rights in our state," she said. "However, given what the president said yesterday about climate change, what's clear is that the governor has made a very big political decision."

Kleeb said that if the president was indeed serious about addressing climate change, he had no choice but to reject Keystone XL.

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