CALGARY – TransCanada Corp. has submitted a report to Nebraska environmental authorities outlining another revised route for its contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline.
“TransCanada shares the goal of protecting key water and natural resources with Nebraskans,” said company CEO Russ Girling in a release.
“The identified route, along with our commitment to implement additional safety requirements above and beyond those required for any other pipeline, ensures the protection of Nebraska’s resources.”
TransCanada proposed the new route in April, which it modified after hearing from 670 Nebraskans who participated in open houses, landowners and others.
The rejigged route will avoid areas with similar features to the Sandhills, an ecologically sensitive area made up of grass-covered sand dunes. Changes have also been made to reduce the risk to some drinking water supplies.
The Nebraska segment of the pipeline will be about 44 kilometres long — 32 kilometres longer than previously envisioned.
Nebraska regulators said they would review the new proposal and hold a public hearing on it before submitting a recommendation to the governor, possibly by the end of the year. The governor will decide whether to approve the new route for the pipeline.
“An initial scan of the report indicates that it responds to some of the comments raised by the NDEQ and the public, but a full evaluation will now begin,” said Mike Linder, director of the state agency.
Critics of the pipeline say it’s still dangerous, despite the changes.
“The new route still risks our land, water and property rights. The new route still crosses high water tables, sandy soil which leads to higher vulnerability of contamination and still crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, the lifeblood of Nebraska’s economy,” said Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska.
“We will not allow middle America to be the middle man for a foreign tarsands pipeline wanting to export their extreme form of energy to the highest bidder.”
Joe Mendelson of the National Wildlife Federation, said TransCanada keeps changing the route through Nebraska because the pipeline is a bad idea in the first place.
“Each new map amounts to a catalog of which property owners will suffer, and what habitat will be placed at risk. The best approach is to ditch Keystone XL entirely and embrace clean energy solutions that don’t spill or explode.”
Late last year, the U.S. State Department, which has final say over the pipeline because it crosses an international border, demanded TransCanada work out a new route through Nebraska to address the ecological concerns over the Sandhills and the Ogallala aquifer.
Republican politicians annoyed with the delay sought to speed up the process through various legislative manoeuvres, prompting the Obama administration to reject the pipeline in its entirety in February.
The State Department stressed that the rejection was due to the fact that it would not have had enough time to properly weigh the new Nebraska route, not because of the merits of the pipeline itself.
It left the door open for Calgary-based TransCanada (TSX:TRP) to apply for a new permit, which it did in May.
On Wednesday, TransCanada filed the new route in a supplemental environmental report to Nebraska’s department of environmental quality. The State Department will receive the report later this week as it conducts its new review.
Following the rejection of the entire US$7.6-billion Alberta-to-Texas pipeline in February, TransCanada decided to go ahead with the southern leg of the pipeline first while it sought a new permit for the northern part.
Construction has begun on the US$2.3-billion stretch between Cushing Oklahoma and the Texas coast and TransCanada aims to have it up and running by mid- to late- 2013.
Meanwhile, it has submitted a new application for permit to build the northern portion of the pipeline, which would run from the Canada-U.S. border in Montana to Nebraska. TransCanada expects that segment to be in service in late 2014 or early 2015.