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11 14, 2011 by The New York Times
At a special session of the Nebraska Legislature, a state senator announced Monday that TransCanada had agreed to adjust its intended route of the Keystone XL oil pipeline to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of the state.“There had been discussions about this over the last couple of days,” said Matt Boever, a spokesman for State Senator Mike Flood. “Moving it out of that Sand Hills region is important.”
The proposed pipeline would run from Alberta’s oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico and was slated to pass through the Sand Hills, which includes the Ogallala Aquifer, a vital source of drinking water for the Great Plains.
TransCanada’s offer comes just days after a Nov. 10 announcement by the State Department that it would delay a final decision on the $7 billion project until it had considered other routes through Nebraska.
The Obama administration had been under increasing pressure from environmental groups, as well as citizens and lawmakers in Nebraska, to reroute the pipeline.
“I can confirm the route will be changed and Nebraskans will play an important role in determining the final route,” Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada’s president, Energy and Oil Pipelines, said in a statement Monday, adding that the company would support legislation in Nebraska that would shift the pipeline route.
Still, it is the State Department that will ultimately decide the fate of the huge project, and TransCanada’s offer of flexibility does not change the department’s plans to conduct a fresh environmental review of a new route, a process that will probably take 12 to 18 months and push the final decision into 2013.
The department must factor in broader environmental concerns about the 1,700-mile project and recommendations of other federal agencies to determine if it is in the “national interest.”
“We look forward to working with TransCanada and the Nebraska Legislature,” a department spokesman said Monday.
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