April 23, 2014

Gov. Heineman says he’ll take his time studying Keystone XL report (AUDIO)

An evaluation of TransCanada’s proposed alternative route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline is in the governor’s hands, but it will be awhile before a decision is made.

Gov. Dave Heineman says he’ll take his time in deciding whether to approve or reject the alternative route of the Keystone XL oil pipeline through Nebraska.

“I’ve begun to read the report. It’s 2,020 pages in length and it will be awhile before we’re able to make a judgment on that,” Heineman tells reporters.

Not everyone is waiting.

Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska doesn’t need more time to pronounce a judgment.

“From a citizen and landowner perspective, we read the DEQ report and quickly realized it was a $5 million document written by and for TransCanada,” Kleeb tells reporters during a conference call.

HDR of Omaha helped NDEQ evaluate the alternative route proposed by TransCanada and aided in compiling the report. Kleeb claims that undermines the reports credibility, pointing out that HDR, a consulting firm, has worked with TransCanada on other projects. Kleeb also charges that little study has been conducted on the environmental effects of extracting crude oil from Canadian oil sands, which opponents derisively call tar sands.

Kleeb accuses the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality of failing to address the two biggest areas of concern about the oil pipeline: the risks to groundwater and the risks to agriculture.

Also, a group of landowners opposed to the project have challenged the constitutionality of the law that gives the governor the authority to approve or reject oil pipelines in the state. The challenge to LB 1161 makes several claims. It charges giving the governor sole authority to accept or reject a route is an unlawful delegation of authority. The lawsuit claims the Public Service Commission should decide pipeline routes and that LB 1161 violates the separation of powers, because it takes that authority from the PSC. It claims the law skirts due process, by allowing no appeal of the governor’s decision and that it applies to only one company, TransCanada, which violates the constitutional prohibition against special legislation.

Meanwhile, TransCanada waits.

It has been waiting for some time.

TransCanada spokesman Grady Semmens says it’s been a long approval process.

“Longer than we normally take for regulatory approvals on a pipeline,” Semmens tells Drive Time Lincoln host Kevin Thomas on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “But, there have been a lot of outstanding questions. It’s become a very political project.”

Keystone XL is a $7 billion, 1,700 mile project to transport crude oil from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]