Monday, October 24, 2011

Nebraska to consider legislation intended to steer tar-sands oil pipeline around Sand Hills

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman today called a special legislative session to re-route a proposed pipeline that would send oil from Canada's tar sands deposits to the Gulf of Mexico. The Keystone XL project would cross the state's environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service map) and the Ogallala Aquifer, the main source of groundwater for the Great Plains, which Heineman said he was acting to protect.

Heineman did "a dramatic about-face . . . after saying for weeks that a special session would be a waste of time and money," Paul Hammel writes for the Omaha World-Herald. The governor acknowledged "that any bill might face the threat of an expensive lawsuit but that he thinks lawmakers have a 'very narrow' opportunity to pass something that would reroute the project that is legal and constitutional." Nebraska has a one-chamber legislature, the Senate.

Trans-Canada, the company that wants to build the pipeline, argues that state governments have no say over interstate pipelines. International pipelines require approval of the State Department, which has given preliminary approval to the project, dismaying environmentalists. Its final ruling is expected by the end of the year. A big crowd attended a hearing on the issue; a report  on it from Brett Moore of the Custer County Chief is here.

Click on Trans-Canada map below for interactive version that explains current pipelines (solid lines) and proposed pipelines (broken lines).

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