TransCanada Applies Again for Keystone XL Pipeline Presidential Permit

WASHINGTON, DC, May 7, 2012 (ENS) – TransCanada Corporation has submitted a second Presidential Permit application to the U.S. State Department to build and operate the Keystone XL Pipeline from the Canada-U.S. border in Montana to Nebraska.

The pipeline would carry crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to connect with an existing pipeline in Steele City, Nebraska. Because the pipeline would cross the Canada-U.S. border, it is the State Department’s responsibility to determine if granting a permit is in the national interest. President Barack Obama will make the final decision.

On January 18, President Obama rejected TransCanada’s first application for a permit, refusing to be pushed by Congressional Republicans into making a decision on the pipeline within 60 days of a short-term payroll tax cut extension.

“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” Obama said at the time. “I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my Administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil.”

Pipeline staged in North Dakota (Photo credit unknown)

Originally, TransCanada sought a Presidential Permit to run the pipeline from the border all the way to the Texas Gulf Coast, but the company is now building the pipeline in stages. It will build the section from the oil supply hub at Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast separately. Because this section is entirely within the United States, a Presidential Permit is not required.

Public opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has been expressed through rallies in front of the White House last summer and fall at which hundreds were arrested and petitions that gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Nowhere has the opposition be stronger than in Nebraska. The pipeline route originally proposed by TransCanada would have crossed the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region overlying the Ogllala aquifer.

TransCanada says its new Presidential Permit application will define an alternative route in Nebraska as soon as that route is finalized by Nebraskans.

In April, legislation was passed in Nebraska and signed into law by Governor Dave Heineman that enabled TransCanada to re-engage with Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality. The new law allows the company to work towards determining an alternative route for Keystone XL that avoids the Sandhills.

TransCanada submitted its alternative routing corridors and a preferred corridor to the NDEQ on April 18. The DEQ will now help determine a specific route and oversee the public comment and review process. A final decision is expected in six to nine months.

This month the NDEQ will conduct a series of four information sessions located along the proposed pipeline corridor.

“These meetings will be one opportunity for the agency to meet with interested persons and discuss where we are at in the pipeline review process,” said NDEQ Director Mike Linder. “We will have detailed maps available, so that people can get a clearer idea of where the corridor is proposed, and we will have staff on hand to discuss the next steps in the process, and how comments can be submitted.”

Dates and locations are:

  • O’Neill – May 9, 4-7 p.m. at the O’Neill Community Center, 501 S. 4th St.
  • Neligh – May 10, 4-7 p.m. at the Neligh-Oakdale High School Gym, 600 J St.
  • Albion – May 16, 4-7 p.m. at the Boone County Fairgrounds, 11th and Fairview Ave.
  • Central City – May 17, 4-7 p.m. at the Central City Community Room, 1515 17th St.

NDEQ has invited TransCanada personnel to attend the information sessions, to respond to questions that are beyond the scope of the state’s review.

“NDEQ and our contractor, HDR Engineering, will continue to review this initial proposal, and following the meetings, we will have discussions with TransCanada about our initial reactions to their route corridor report,” Linder said. “TransCanada is then expected to submit a more refined route plan for the state’s evaluation.”

The route as now proposed starts at the South Dakota – Nebraska State line near Mills in Keya Paha County and ends at the Central City pumping station in Merrick, Nebraska. TransCanada says it crosses the Niobrara River at a location not designated as wild and scenic.

Linder said that during this review, NDEQ will develop a draft evaluation report which will be made available to the public. Several months from now when the draft evaluation report is completed, the agency will announce a public hearing on Nebraska’s review. Public comments are invited now through the conclusion of the public hearing, and those comments will be considered as the state develops a final report to submit to the Governor.

To find out more about the process, review documents or submit comments, go to NDEQ’s new web site that focuses on the pipeline review at: https://ecmp.nebraska.gov/deq-seis/. A link to this area can also be found on NDEQ’s main web site, at: www.deq.ne.gov

At least one Nebraska group is declaring its opposition to the new route. The group Stop Dirty Tar Sands says, “Despite promises to the contrary, the proposed pipeline route still goes through the sensitive Sandhills region, threatens the Ogallala aquifer, undermines American energy security, and does nothing to ensure that the dangerous impact of tar sands will be limited or their impact on climate mitigated.”

The group includes landowners in Nebraska and Texas, and the grassroots group BOLD Nebraska as well as national environmental groups the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Back in Washington, the State Department said in a statement Friday that it is committed to conducting “a rigorous, transparent and thorough review … using existing analysis as appropriate.”

The department said it will begin by hiring an independent third-party contractor to review the existing Environmental Impact Statement from the prior Keystone XL pipeline review process, as well as to identify and assist with new analysis.

A report from the State Department’s Office of Inspector General released February 10 found several flaws in the State Department’s first review of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.

The OIG’s report found the environmental consulting firm Cardno Entrix which wrote the first environmental impact statement had extensive ties to TransCanada, although the relationship fell short of conflict of interest.

In addition, the report said the State Department did not adequately weigh concerns by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency about the proposed route of the pipeline project.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2012. All rights reserved.