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Nebraska agency evaluates new Keystone route

Keywords: Tags  Keystone XL, TransCanada, Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, pipeline, Sandhills, Catherine Ngai

NEW YORK — The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) has issued its final evaluation of a proposed rerouting of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline, which is intended to transport oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

The new route would avoid the state’s environmentally sensitive Sandhills region, which previously had been a point of contention.

"The reroute ensures Keystone XL will have minimal environmental impact by avoiding the area defined as the Nebraska Sandhills, crossing fewer miles of threatened- and endangered-species habitat and considerably fewer miles of erodible soils," Calgary, Alberta-based TransCanada said.

The new route instead would cross the High Plains Aquifer in Nebraska east of the Sandhills. Any impact on aquifers should be contained to local areas, according to the NDEQ report, and Keystone would be responsible for all cleanup.

The report also noted that the reroute would avoid fragile soils in northern Nebraska and shallow groundwater areas in the west, and said that any affected agricultural operations would be able to resume activities the season after construction ended.

TransCanada said last summer that it would begin construction on the southern portion of its planned crude oil pipeline, which will run 485 miles from Cushing, Okla., to Nederland, Texas, while its northern portion awaits a presidential permit, which is necessary to build the portion of the XL that crosses the U.S.-Canada border (, Aug. 17). The XL project has faced numerous setbacks and delays, including the denial early last year of a presidential permit (, Jan. 18).

If approved, construction of the pipeline would result in $418.1 million in economic benefits to the state and would support some 4,560 new or existing jobs, the NDEQ said. The project also would generate $16.5 million in taxes from pipeline construction materials and yield some $13 million in local property tax revenues in its first full year of valuation.

Gov. Dave Heineman has 30 days to review the report and make a decision about the proposed rerouting.

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