TransCanada tweaks pipeline route to avoid sensitive Neb. terrain
Written byNICK JULIANO, Greenwire
The company behind a multibillion-dollar oil pipeline today announced changes to its planned route through Nebraska to avoid sensitive landscapes and potential groundwater contamination.
Maps of TransCanada's proposed changes to the Keystone XL pipeline's route through Nebraska were not available at press time, although the company said it addressed concerns from landowners, state environmental regulators and others. But opponents of the pipeline, designed to ship crude from Alberta's oil sands to the Gulf Coast, maintained a skeptical posture immediately following the announcement.
The new route submitted today "was developed based on extensive feedback from Nebraskans and reflects our shared desire to minimize the disturbance of land and sensitive resources in the state," TransCanada President and CEO Russ Girling said in a statement this morning.
TransCanada submitted to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality a supplemental report narrowing the 2,000-foot-wide corridor to identify a path where the pipe would actually be placed. The wider corridor was identified in April to avoid Nebraska's sensitive Sand Hills region, although landowners in the new corridor warned that their land was just as ecologically sensitive as that formally designated as Sand Hills (Greenwire, July 10).
DEQ responded to TransCanada's identification of the wider corridor earlier this summer with a lengthy list of questions and a suggestion that the company "carefully consider route alternations" within the corridor to minimize areas where standing water seeps through sandy soil (Greenwire, July 18).
The new route includes several "significant" adjustments, the company said in a news release. The new route "avoids" areas with similar characteristics to the Sand Hills, including "features similar to sand dunes and areas with sandy, erodible soils, with a thin organic layer of topsoil that allows for rapid re-vegetation," according to the release. It also proposes two alternatives aimed at avoiding concerns of potential contamination of a public drinking water supply for the town of Clarks.
Keystone opponents are waiting to fully evaluate TransCanada's new route before determining whether it truly avoids the Sand Hills and the underlying Ogallala Aquifer, but they are not optimistic that the company will have assuaged their concerns.
"We cannot trust TransCanada to treat landowners fairly and we cannot trust TransCanada to treat our natural resources -- especially our water the backbone of our state economy -- fairly either," Jane Kleeb of the nonprofit Bold Nebraska, which has led local opposition to the pipeline, said in a statement this morning. "We will not allow middle America to be the middle man for a foreign tar sands pipeline wanting to export their extreme form of energy to the highest bidder."
DEQ's review of the new route will help determine whether Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) recommends approval of the pipeline, which still needs approval from the State Department. The department is not expected to complete its evaluation of the project until early next year. It did not respond to a request for comment this morning.