December 19, 2014

TransCanada: new Keystone XL route reflects Nebraska input (AUDIO)

A spokesman for TransCanada says the alternative route for the Keystone XL pipeline the corporation submitted today reflects the input it received from Nebraskans. [Download version of map/PDF]

“This re-route is, of course, based on all of the feedback from hundreds of Nebraskans that we and the NDEQ have heard from over the last number of months as we’ve gone through this process,” TransCanada spokesman Grady Semmens tells Nebraska Radio Network in an interview.

TransCanada proposes building a $7 billion pipeline to carry crude oil extracted from the tar sands of western Canada 1,700 miles to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas. Concerns that the original route posed environmental hazards to the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer held up approval, sparked protests and triggered a special legislative session during which TransCanada agreed to find an alternative route.

The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality held hearings this summer to seek input on a new route for the pipeline. Semmens says the proposal submitted to NDEQ today refines a proposal TransCanada submitted in April and reflects the public input from those hearings.

“So, we heard a lot of those feedback, comments, questions about that route corridor and made some adjustments to the actual route that we’re putting forward to the NDEQ for their consideration,” Semmens explains.

Semmens says the new route not only avoids the Sand Hills, but skirts other similar environmentally sensitive areas.

“We’re certainly hopeful that it will receive approval, but we continue to work with the NDEQ going forward on it and to address any other questions or concerns that might come up,” Semmens says.

Under the legislative approved by the Unicameral during last year’s special session, the NDEQ forwards a recommendation to the governor who has authority to approve an oil pipeline route through the state. Since Keystone XL would cross the border, it must also receive a Presidential Permit which presumably would be forthcoming if the State Department signs off on the new route.

Semmens says this is a big step for the project.

“The route in Nebraska, of course, is the only outstanding portion of the project really left for us to finalize,” according to Semmens. “The only piece that’s left that needs to be finalize for the Presidential Permit application as well.”

The revision of that route submitted in April includes three significant modifications, according to TransCanada. The company says the new route not only avoids the Sand Hills, but minimizes the impact on areas that reflect characteristics of the Sand Hills; sand dunes and sandy, erodible soils.

Go to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality’s Nebraska’s Keystone XL Pipeline Evaluation website.

AUDIO: Brent Martin interviews Grady Semmens of TransCanada about alternative Keystone XL route. [6:20]