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November 13, 2012
Nebraska reviews XL pipeline reroute

The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) has issued a generally favorable draft evaluation report for TransCanada Keystone Pipeline’s proposed Nebraska Reroute of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

TransCanada proposed to construct, operate, and maintain an 875-mile-long, 36-inch-diameter crude oil pipeline from the U.S.-Canadian border to Steele City, Nebraska.  If completed, the project will transport about 600,000 barrels a day of crude oil produced from tar sands deposits in eastern Alberta, Canada.  The Obama administration denied the company its initial request for the presidential permit required for international projects because of risks the proposed project posed to underground drinking water resources.  Public interest groups claim that the risks from possible spills are particularly high because there is much that is not known about the type of crude that will be transported.   The decision became front page election-year news, with the administration being either condemned for killing jobs and sabotaging energy independence or lauded for placing human health and the environment first. 

Concerns addressed?

After rumors spread that TransCanada would instead ship the product to the Far East, the company submitted its new proposed route through the United States in April 2012.  According to TransCanada, one intent of the proposal is to alleviate concerns about environmental risks raised by U.S. and state authorities as well as the public.  The NDEQ appears initially satisfied that the company has accomplished its mission.  The NDEQ will publish its final evaluation after it reviews public comments that are due by December 4, 2012, and also collects comments received at a formal public meeting held the same day.

Drinking water avoidance

Included in NDEQ’s findings in its 600-page draft evaluation are:

  • TransCanada’s Nebraska Reroute avoids the Sand Hills region, which contains the critical Ogallala Aquifer.
  • TransCanada provided route alternatives that reduce the amount of fragile soils that are crossed in the northern portion of Nebraska.
  • The revised route establishes greater distances from the sources of drinking water in the communities of Clarks and Western.
  • Numerous construction and operational mitigation measures would be incorporated to protect groundwater and surface water.
  • TransCanada would pay for an independent public employee to act as a liaison to facilitate the exchange of information between TransCanada and landowners, local communities, and residents.
  • TransCanada would provide baseline water well testing for domestic and livestock water wells within 300 feet of the center line of the route.
  • TransCanada would adhere to 57 special pipeline safety conditions that had been previously agreed on with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
  • TransCanada would be responsible for developing an Emergency Response Plan for a product release associated with the operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline and ancillary facilities.
  • TransCanada has identified several variations of crude oil that would be transported at various times through the pipeline from Alberta, Canada, and from the Bakken Formation in Montana and North Dakota. The report contains the general characteristics of the crude oil, which are similar to other crude oils from around the world. In the event of a spill, the appropriate authorities would have immediate access to the product’s Safety Data Sheet.
  • In addition to complying with all relevant state and federal cleanup requirements, TransCanada will provide evidence that it is carrying $200 million in third-party liability insurance to cover cleanup costs for incidents in Nebraska.

Click here to read NDEQ’s draft evaluation report.

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