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Oct 242011

From Green Right Now Reports

In a move that had been talked about, but was by no means considered a sure bet, Nebraska’s Gov. Dave Heineman has called for the Obama Administration to turn down the permit request for the controversial Keystone Pipeline XL — at least until the Nebraska state legislature can review the pipeline’s proposed route.

A special session of the Nebraska legislature had been a growing possibility since Heineman, a Republican, said earlier this year that he agreed with pipeline critics that its route across a delicate region of the Nebraska could jeopardize the Ogallala Aquifer.

The Keystone Pipeline XL would carry tar sands oil from Canadian oil fields across the U.S. to refineries in Houston, where it could be sold on global markets. It’s approval has been considered to be likely since the State Department gave it tentative clearance in September. The White House is expected to approve or denial the permit for pipeline construction before the end of 2011.

Critics say the pipeline puts U.S. lands and water at risk, because it will carry corrosive tar sands oil, making the pipeline more prone to leakage. They’ve raised special concerns about the pipeline’s planned journey over the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking water to millions in the Midwest, including about 80 percent of Nebraskans where crop farmers and ranchers also rely upon the Aquifer for irrigation.

The 1,700-mile proposed pipeline proposed by TransCanada also would link up with an associated pipeline already in place. That pipeline, which cuts across the Midwest has leaked more than a dozen times since its construction in 2010.

Heineman explained Monday that he is calling the special session to give consideration to re-routing the pipeline around the Sandhills region of Nebraska where a potential oil leak could most easily reach the Aquifer because of the unique geology of the region. The governor said he wasn’t siding with Keystone opponents, but wants to give the state an opportunity to better control pipelines within its borders.

“The key decision for current pipeline discussions is the permitting decision that will be made by the Obama Administration, which is why I have urged President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to deny the permit,” Gov. Heineman said.

“However, I believe Nebraskans are expecting our best efforts to determine if alternatives exist. Therefore, I will be calling a special session of the Nebraska Legislature to have a thoughtful and thorough public discussion about alternative solutions that could impact the route of the pipeline in a legal and constitutional manner.”

Heineman and State Senator Mike Flood of Norfolk, Speaker of the Legislature, have set the starting date of the Special Session for Nov. 1.

A TransCanada spokesman said Monday that it is too late in the process to re-route the pipeline, which already has been planned to follow a safe path.

TransCanada has promoted the pipeline as a construction boon for the U.S., and emphasizes that the tar sands oil comes from an ally of the U.S., unlike some imported oil from less-friendly nations.

Bold Nebraska, a citizens’ group composed of environmental activists, ranchers and concerned residents, opposes the pipeline, mainly because of its threat to clean water and land. The group maintains that Nebraska would be better off developing renewable and traditional American energy, which also creates jobs. From the group’s website:

“The TransCanada pipeline, called Keystone XL, is a risky and bad idea for our state, our land, our water and our economic activity. We do not want to see it built. We want to see investments in American-made energy, including domestic oil and sustainable biofuels, wind, solar and efficiency programs, which bring long-term jobs to rural and urban Nebraska.”

A re-routing of the pipeline would delay the project, because TransCanada would have to renegotiate land easements in new locations.

Some critics of the pipeline’s route have suggested that it could take a more northerly route across Nebraska and then cut south in the eastern part of the state. Such a route would add miles to the pipeline, but would avoid the Sandhills region.