Nebraska environmental officials released a new preferred route submitted by TransCanada for the Nebraska portion of the stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline that avoids the state’s groundwater-rich Sandhills region.
As proposed, the new route would veer east around the Sandhills before looping back to the original route. TransCanada said the reroute adds about 100 miles to the original 1,700-mile project that would carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) Director Mike Linder said the state review process can now occur, following the passage of LB1161, which became effective on April 18, 2012. This legislation provides NDEQ the authority to review major oil pipeline projects proposed in the state which will be included in a federal agency environmental review. One major component of the review will be public access to information.
Linder said the agency will soon announce times and dates of a series of public information meetings which will be held in the proposed route area. After these are completed, NDEQ will provide initial feedback to TransCanada. TransCanada would then finalize the route that it wants to have evaluated by the state, and will conduct more in-depth and on-the-ground definition of the proposed route. NDEQ and its contractor, HDR Engineering, will then evaluate the route through a review process that would satisfy National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements. The draft report that is developed by NDEQ will be posted on the agency web site for public review.
The report and related information is now online at http://ecmp.nebraska.gov/deq-seis/. The report contains several maps describing alternatives evaluated by TransCanada with the preferred route identified on a map on page 31.
At that location, the public can also submit comments to NDEQ, review documents related to the project, and view other background materials. There is also a link to this information on the main page of NDEQ’s web site, http://deq.ne.gov/.