Nebraska holds the key to the xl pipeline not Obama...............
Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2012 11:25 am
By Paul Hammel World-Herald News Service | 0 comments
LINCOLN — A state agency issued a preliminary review of the Keystone XL pipeline Tuesday that appears to indicate most concerns about the controversial crude-oil pipeline are being addressed.
The draft report, released by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, raises no concerns about the route of the 36-inch, high-pressure pipeline — unlike suggestions made by the DEQ in July to avoid areas of sandy soil and community drinking water supplies.
Instead, Tuesday’s 600-page report stated the new route of the controversial crude-oil pipeline successfully avoids the Sandhills region of Nebraska, a step agreed to during a special session of the Legislature last year.
It also says that pipeline developer TransCanada Inc. had, through small changes in the pipeline route prompted by the July suggestions, minimized areas of sandy soils to be crossed by the project, and avoided the municipal wellfields of two small communities, Clarks and Western.
The report also stated TransCanada has agreed to compile an emergency response plan for leaks that might occur in the pipeline and purchase $200 million in third-party liability insurance to cover any clean-up costs.
While the leader of Bold Nebraska said the steps were inadequate and the pipeline still posed threats to groundwater, the head of a pro-pipeline group said Tuesday’s report should “strengthen” the case for approving the Keystone XL.
“Nebraska is doing it right. Public input allows false claims to be corrected, and the best possible plan for the pipeline to be put in place,” said Michael Whatley of the Houston-based Consumer Energy Alliance.
Meanwhile, Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska said that the latest route of the pipeline is still “risky” and disputed that it completely avoids the groundwater-rich Sandhills.
She called the offer of a $200 million liability policy “laughable” given the projected $1 billion cost to clean up an oil spill from another Canadian pipeline that fouled Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010.
Kleeb said that she was most worried about the long-term impact a spill could have on Nebraska’s water and the short-term economic damages landowners would suffer if a leak occurred.
“That’s not covered in state law,” she said.
Shawn Howard, a spokesman for TransCanada, said that Tuesday’s reported showed the “care and attention” the company has undertaken to reduce the pipeline’s environmental impact and further protect public safety.
He cited the following steps TransCanada had agreed to take:
- Pay for an independent public employee to act as a liaison between TransCanada and landowners, local communities and residents.
- Provide baseline testing for domestic and livestock water wells within 300 feet of the route’s center line, upon request.
- Adhere to 57 special pipeline safety conditions, as previously negotiated with federal regulators.
- Identify a range of crude oil types that will be transported in the pipeline.
That final issue had been identified as a concern by environmental groups because the Keystone XL will predominately carry a unique form of crude oil, diluted bitumen. Bitumen is a thick, tarry form of oil steamed out of tar sand deposits in Canada and diluted with chemicals — including some that cause cancer — so it can flow through a pipeline.
Environmental groups, including Bold Nebraska and the Sierra Club, have raised concerns that emergency responders and physicians will not know the exact chemical makeup of crude oil in the Keystone XL in the event of a leak.
Tuesday’s report from the DEQ stated that TransCanada has provided the general chemical makeup of five forms of crude oil that will be shipped through the pipeline, which will carry 30 million gallons of oil a day. The exact composition of the oil, the DEQ said, would be made available if a leak is reported.
State DEQ Director Mike Linder said it would not be accurate to label Tuesday’s draft report as “favorable” to the project, even though it did not raise concerns like those this summer that led to about 20 miles of tweaks to the pipeline route.
Linder said TransCanada has been responsive to concerns raised by his agency; the state’s contractor, HDR of Omaha; and the public.
A public hearing on the draft report will be at 6 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Boone County Fairgrounds in Albion, Neb. Linder encouraged the public to comment on the report, either at the meeting or by mail or email.
A final report will then be issued. Gov. Dave Heineman will have the final say on whether the state approves the pipeline’s route across Nebraska.
That decision will be forwarded to the U.S. Department of State, which will make the final judgment on whether the entire Keystone XL project will be allowed. The project will transport oil from Canada’s tar sands region to the U.S. Gulf Coast, and pick up some oil from North Dakota and Montana along the way.
The pipeline project was denied a permit in January by the Obama Administration, which indicated it needed more time to review the project and if it threatened drinking water supplies in the Ogallala Aquifer, an ocean of groundwater that is at its thickest points beneath the Sandhills. The pipeline route was changed to avoid the Sand Hills.