Keystone Pipeline Would Present Low Risks, Study Says
Nebraska Paves Way for Ultimate Approval
The obstacles blocking the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline are falling one-by-one. The presidential encounter was huge. But the next biggest would be that of the state of Nebraska, which had put the brakes on the original deal.
Now, a state agency there has completed a report that says the pipeline would involve “minimal” risks to the Nebraska's overall environment. Basically, the developer, TransCanada Corp., rerouted its line to avoid sensitive areas -- although not enough to placate the green opposition.
“The proposed Nebraska Reroute avoids many areas of fragile soils in Northern Nebraska,” says the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality. “Keystone would have financial and regulatory responsibility for any spill associated with the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline,” it says, adding that the project's economic benefits would far exceed its environmental risks.
The same analysis also says that the line would carry a product that is no more corrosive than the light crude oil that most often flows through oil pipelines. That’s a key finding, given that one of the harshest criticisms has been that “tar sands” -- the fuel discovered in Canada -- are thicker and nastier than traditional oil supplies, and that it takes more energy to refine.
The 1,200-mile, multi-billion Keystone project has been in the making since 2008. Now, TransCanada says that it sees daylight, saying that once the project is approved, it would expect construction to begin immediately. It would then become fully operational two years later.
As for Nebraska, its Republican Governor Dave Heineman now has to approve it. And while the project is still facing fierce opposition from green groups, he is expected to soon grant his permission. At the same time, the U.S. Department of State must have a full public airing of the issues. That agency is involved because the line would cross from Canada into the United States.
While the line avoids some sensitive regions, it will still cross a noted aquifer used by the state’s farmers and ranchers. Environmentalists have expressed concern that the pipeline would leak or burst and the thick tar sands would escape, damaging the local water resources. Meanwhile, they are also saying that the fuel is 20-percent more greenhouse gas intensive than traditional oil.
“I appreciate the feedback that we have received from citizens, and the hard work of the Department of Environmental Quality in addressing this issue in a thoughtful and deliberate manner,” Gov. Heineman says. “I will now carefully review this report over the next several weeks.”
Nebraska had earlier rejected the line’s path, giving the president an excuse to delay action until after the election. But in the next few months, Obama is expected to accept the deal: The White House will choose job creation and energy independence -- all to the chagrin of the green groups that have said this project is Ground Zero in the battle against global warming.
The reality is that those tar sands are going to get drilled and transported from Canada. The only question is whether they will head south into the United States or whether they will go east by ship and into the Asian countries. Given that fact, the president is expected to allow the line to go through, reasoning that this country can better regulate pipeline safety and air emissions than the developing nations where the fuel might alternatively head.
Meantime, the State Department has already scrutinized the pipeline with the exception of the one area that needs to be rerouted. But the EPA faulted its analysis, saying that it did not properly consider its affect on climate change. Still, parts of the U.S.-controlled line are going forth -- those links that carry North Dakota fuel southward, and all with the president's blessings.
“Now more than ever it is important to realize that the very same risks to our land and water that worried Nebraskans for the past three years still exist,” writes Ben Gotschall, with Bold Nebraska. “The concerns of Nebraskans have been ignored by our legislature and by the Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency authorized by an unconstitutional bill to review this pipeline route.”
Jobs and investment will trump the environmental concerns in this case. With the Nebraska agency's favorable review in combination with what is expected to be an ultimate approval from the State Department, President Obama will have the cover he needs to sign off on the revised Keystone Pipeline.
EnergyBiz Insider has been awarded the Gold for Original Web Commentary presented by the American Society of Business Press Editors. The column is also the Winner of the 2011 Online Column category awarded by Media Industry News, MIN. Ken Silverstein has been honored as one of MIN’s Most Intriguing People in Media.