A $7 billion oil pipeline stretching from northeastern Alberta to Texas is one step closer following approval by the Nebraska government.
A $7 biliion pipeline designed to transport synthetic crude oil and diluted bitumen from the Athabasca oil sands region in northeastern Alberta to various destinations in the United States has moved one step closer to approval and eventual construction after the governor of Nebraska approved a new route that avoids an environmentally sensitive area.
On Tuesday, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman notified the Obama administration that he has granted approval for the Keystone XL Pipeline to cross his state, writing in a letter to the President and Secretary of State that given the revised route and mitigation commitments given by TransCanada, he believed any environmental impact of the development in his state would be minimal.
An initial plan for the pipeline was heavily criticised by environmentalists in the state as it would have traversed the Sand Hills area, which includes a high concentration of sensitive wetlands and extensive areas of shallow groundwater.
While the revised route still traverses the High Plains Aquifer, Heineman says it avoids Sand Hills and any impact from an oil spill would be localised, with operator TransCanada responsible for any clean-up.
“Construction and operation of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, with the mitigations and commitments from Keystone, would have minimal environmental impacts on Nebraska,” Heineman wrote in his letter.
The latest developments have been welcomed by the Canadian government, with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver saying the proposed pipeline would create thousands of jobs in both countries.
“Our desire is to work with the Obama administration in achieving final approval,” Oliver said in a statement. “We believe Keystone XL will enhance the future economic prosperity and security of both Canada and the United States.”
Despite the latest ruling, the proposed pipeline’s fate still awaits a final determination by the US State Department. The decision is not expected until March 31 at the earliest.
Aside from the pipeline traversing sensitive areas, environmentalists are concerned about the carbon-intensive nature of the fuel, fearing it will boost emissions of greenhouse gases.
Published on 24 January 2013