December 30, 2011

New Nebraska Pipeline To Avoid Certain Areas

Nebraska state officials said Thursday that a Canadian company looking to build a pipeline across the Great Plains and eventually to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico will need to use a 10-year-old map of the region to avoid environmentally sensitive areas.

TransCanada in November agreed to develop a new route through Nebraska, avoiding the Sandhills region of the state, for their proposed Keystone XL pipeline carrying tar sands oil to the Gulf region.

“Obviously, the applicant cannot propose the route without knowing the area to be avoided,” Mike Linder, director of the Nebraska Department of Environmental quality, told USA Today.

The proposed pipeline will carry oil from Canada across Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. TransCanada has also proposed connecting the Keystone XL to the Bakken oil field in Montana and North Dakota. But the project has been criticized from environmental groups raising concerns that the pipeline could harm underground and surface water supplies, increase air pollution and harm wildlife.

The U.S. State Department also voiced concerns about the proposed route, especially near the Sandhills and Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska. It decided to delay approval of the project until TransCanada could develop a much safer route for the environment. The review process for the new route is expected to last six to nine months.

The original Keystone XL route would have entered Keya Paha County near the center of the state and followed a diagonal path southeast to Steele City in Jefferson County. That route crossed a significant area of the Sandhills in Keya Paha, Rock, Holt, Garfield and Wheeler counties.

TransCanada initially set cost of the project at $7 billion, part of a larger $13 billion underground pipeline network designed to move 1.5 million barrels of Canadian oil daily to US refineries. It is not clear how much it will now cost TransCanada to re-route the pipeline. Delays in getting approval for the pipeline have already added $1 billion to the total cost of the project.

TransCanada won approval in 2008 for the first Keystone pipeline, which carries oil from Saskatchewan to Illinois. That portion of the pipeline began moving crude oil in June 2010.


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