TransCanada says it will reroute planned pipeline

By Grant Schulte, Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. — Canadian pipeline developer TransCanada will shift the route of its planned oil pipeline out of the environmentally sensitive Sandhills area of Nebraska, two company officials announced Monday night.

Speaking at a news conference at the Nebraska Capitol, the officials said TransCanada would agree to the new route, a move the company previously claimed wasn't possible, as part of an effort to push through the proposed $7 billion project. They expressed confidence the project would ultimately be approved.

Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada's president for energy and oil pipelines, said rerouting the Keystone XL line would likely require 30 to 40 additional miles of pipe and an additional pumping station. The exact route has not yet been determined, but Pourbaix said Nebraska will play a key role in deciding it.

The announcement follows the federal government's decision last week to delay a decision on a federal permit for the project until it studies new potential routes that avoid the Sandhills area and the Ogallala aquifer as the proposed pipeline carries crude oil from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

Debate over the pipeline has drawn international attention focused largely on Nebraska, because the pipeline would cross the Sandhills — an expanse of grass-strewn, loose-soil hills — and part of the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies water to Nebraska and parts of seven other states.

Company officials had claimed that moving the route was impossible because of a U.S. State Department study which found the Sandhills route would leave the smallest environmental footprint.

Pourbaix said he was confident a new route would also avoid the parts of the aquifer that sit closes to the surface, which was a major concern cited by environmentalists and the region's landowners. He said moving it out of the Sandhills region would likely ease many of the concerns posed by landowners.

"We do remain confident that we could have built a safe pipeline through the original route that was approved by the State Department" in an environmental impact statement released earlier this year, Pourbaix said. "At the same time, it has always been a priority of TransCanada to listen to our stakeholders."

He added: "We're confident that collaborating with the state of Nebraska will make this process much easier."

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said any new route would require a supplemental environmental impact statement that likely would take more than a year to complete.

"Based on the total mileage of potential alternative routes that would need to be reviewed, we anticipate the evaluation could conclude as early as first quarter of 2013," Toner said in a written statement.

Delaying the decision on the pipeline went over badly in Canada, where it was seen as a signal that the country must diversify its oil exports away from the United States and toward Asia.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he made it clear in a weekend meeting with President Barack Obama that the nation will step up its efforts to sell oil to Asia since the decision was delayed, and would keep pushing the U.S. to approve the project.

"This highlights why Canada must increase its efforts to ensure it can supply its energy outside the U.S. and into Asia in particular," Harper said.

Harper said he emphasized the pipeline would mean economic growth on both sides of the border.

Business and labor groups who support the project say the environmental criticism is overblown, and based more on opposition to oil than the project itself. They say the project will create construction jobs, although the exact number is disputed.

Environmentalists and some Nebraska landowners fear the pipeline would disrupt the region's loose soil for decades, harm wildlife, and contaminate the aquifer.

The speaker of Nebraska's legislature, Mike Flood, said the state will conduct an environmental assessment of its own at state expense to determine a route that avoids the Sandhills area and other ecologically sensitive areas. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality will oversee the process, with collaboration from the U.S. State Department.

Noah Greenwald, a spokesman for the Center of Biological Diversity, said his group remains opposed to the pipeline and still believes it poses an environmental threat. The center is one of three environmental groups that have sued the U.S. State Department, seeking a judge's order to block the project.

"Even with the reroute, we still feel like we can push forward," he said. "We're going to keep up the public pressure on the administration as this moves forward."

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman had called a special legislative session to seek a legal and constitutional solution to the pipeline debate. But the session's stated goal — to enact oil pipeline legislation — has lacked a clear consensus about what, if anything, state officials ought to do.

Nebraska State Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm, an outspoken pipeline critic, was pleased with Monday's announcement.

"It's good for the people of Nebraska. It's good for TransCanada," he said.

Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.

Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Hearing Rally at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center on 14th Street between Pennsylvania Avenue and Constitution Avenue in NW Washington DC on Friday afternoon, 7 October 201

Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Hearing Rally at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center on 14th Street between Pennsylvania Avenue and Constitution Avenue in NW Washington DC on Friday afternoon, 7 October 201 by Alex Parker

Tagged: Keystone XL Pipeline

More from Alex Parker


gudpoynt 3 years, 3 months ago

So, TransCanada said any other route was "impossible" until the gov't called them on it, after which, they agreed to do the impossible.

They didn't even wait around for the gov't to prove that their claim of "impossible" was bogus. The preempted the findings so they could save a little face, and not be called outright liars.

"It has always been a priority of TransCanada to listen to our stakeholders."

But of course, we won't actually do anything about it until somebody makes us.

SHAREholders on the other hand, now that's a different story.

blindrabbit 3 years, 3 months ago

Hopefully they will re-route it through Charles Koch's property in Wichita, where it will spring a leak and soil him!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

"Business and labor groups who support the project say the environmental criticism is overblown, and based more on opposition to oil than the project itself."

The environmental impacts of mining this particular oil are nothing short of disastrous-- on the local environment in Canada, on the areas through which the pipeline(s) will run, and to the planet as a whole because of the "game-over" carbon footprint it has.

itwasthedukes 3 years, 3 months ago

Such hate for a product you all use everyday. Interesting.

Don Whiteley 3 years, 3 months ago

Nice job, Americans!! Business as usual. Tie us even more tightly to Middle Eastern oil, send more of North America's money to countries who sponsor terrorism. And your only answer for alternative energey is to send us all back to the stone age or plant wind turbines on every acre of Kansas soil.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

And your only answer is to drive us all off the cliff a little sooner, at a higher rate of speed.

Jimo 3 years, 3 months ago

This may not matter in the end anyway. Yesterday, the natural resource world was rocked by a (not so) surprising announcement. The so-called Seaway Pipeline, which runs from the key oil spot of Cushing, Okla. to the Gulf Coast, will be reversed. What used to transport imported oil into the Midwest will now carry what has been a growing glut of Midwest oil to the Gulf (to either be refined into domestic gasoline or be exported to Latin America). So, this existing pipeline will now compete with this proposed Keystone XL. It is unclear what the economics favoring the XL pipeline would be after such a move.

What this also does is undercut what had been an artificially depressed price in the U.S. for oil. Yesterday, U.S. oil soared (over $100/b now) while the European prices, which govern most Atlantic trade, fell. For the first time since early this year the difference was less than $10/b between the two. With the pipeline reversal, what had been a glut in the Midwest, caused by the limited infrastructure not designed for the significant supplies now flowing from places like North Dakota, will fade away and with it the depressed price. This year oil producers had been forced to go to extraordinary lengths to transport oil to the Gulf including trucking it, putting it on barges, and even shipping it by rail. And it was only going to get worse. Anadarko last week announced a resurvey of oil outside Denver showed 0.5 to 1.5 billion barrels of recoverable oil - a quantity very rarely found in the U.S. anymore.

No, Canadian oil sands (much like American oil shale) has always been cursed. It is recoverable in theory and only at great expense and difficulty. Canada could try to build a pipeline over the Rockies to the Pacific (and ship to China or California) or it build more pipeline (besides the existing Keystone pipeline that runs east to Manitoba and then south to Kansas) eastward and at some point refine it into gasoline for Chicago, Toronto, Ohio, etc. Or it could just accept that the resource is too limited to be developed right now.

Oh, and this oil was never intended for U.S. consumers. The whole point of piping it to the Gulf was to export it. Nor were there many jobs attached to the plan, as the Canadians recently admitted. (They were double and triple counting jobs. E.g., a 2 yr. long welding job was counted as 2 jobs.) Needless to say, the whole project simultaneously emitted a shocking amount of GHG into the atmosphere while keeping the world addicted to oil that much longer. The whole project never made any economic sense without the massive subsidies the governments were providing to it.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 2 months ago

Tar sands oil should be left in the ground and my tax dollars left out of the deal!

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