July 22, 2014

Gov. Heineman: three key issues led to approval of Keystone XL (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman says three key issues led to his approval of TransCanada’s re-route of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Heineman says he took his time to evaluate the proposed re-route of Keystone XL.

“I reviewed the 2,020 page report over about a three-week timeframe, particularly paying attention to the comments of Nebraskans,” Heineman tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Heineman says his decision hinged on three key issues: energy independence, economic impact and the environmental impact.

The governor says Keystone XL will help move the United States toward energy independence and will create both direct and indirect jobs in Nebraska. He says TransCanada made changes to the route it originally proposed the oil pipeline would take through Nebraska that will protect the state’s environment.

“I talked to a number of landowners, many of whom did not want the pipeline on their land. But, at the end of the day, it is going around the environmentally-sensitive Sand Hills area and I tried to make the best judgment for Nebraska,” according to Heineman. “I approved the route. The final authorization, though, will come from the president of the United States.”

The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Director delivered its evaluation of the alternative route TransCanada proposed for Keystone XL shortly after the beginning of the year. The report found that TransCanada had avoided the Sand Hills.

Avoiding the Sand Hills was the primary objective contained in legislation approved by the Unicameral in April of 2012. LB 1161 gave NDEQ direction on how to evaluate an alternative route to be proposed by TransCanada. TransCanada’s proposed $7 billion, 1,700 mile oil pipeline project was sidetracked by concerns that the original route would harm the environmental fragile Sand Hills in Nebraska.

The governor called the Nebraska legislature into special session in 2011 to address the concerns. A deal brokered by Speaker Mike Flood and TransCanada resulted in LB 4, which authorized the NDEQ to evaluate the new route. That evaluation stopped abruptly when President Obama denied TransCanada a permit to enter the country. TransCanada must obtain a Presidential Permit to build the oil pipeline from western Canada to oil refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas.

The president left open the possibility of restarting the process and in April of last year, the legislature approved LB 1161 which made adjustments to the original legislation. On April 18th, TransCanada proposed an alternative route.

While the alternative route would avoid the Sand Hills, it wouldn’t avoid the Ogallala Aquifer, a point seized upon by critics of the pipeline such as Bold Nebraska.

Heineman acknowledges that he first insisted that it avoid the aquifer, but points out the agreement reached during the special legislative session focused on re-routing the pipeline to avoid the Sand Hills, not to avoid the aquifer. He says he is satisfied with assurances made by TransCanada that the aquifer will be protected, though he says the state will closely monitor that.

The NDEQ report projects the economic impact of the Keystone XL oil pipeline at $418 million dollars, creating as many as 4,500.

The evaluation conducted by NDEQ will be used by the State Department in considering TransCanada’s new request that a Presidential Permit be granted.

To access the Executive Summary of the NDEQ report click here.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]