(MintPress) – A year after President Barack Obama rejected a proposed Keystone pipeline route in Nebraska, citing it threatened the state’s Sand Hills regions, the state’s governor approved a revised route — one that skirts around the Sand Hills regions, but stands to threaten the Ogallala Aquifer.
The new plan would limit environmental impacts in the state, according to Nebraska’s environmental regulations agency, but critics aren’t buying it.
The $7 billion pipeline would run through six American states, transporting up to 800,000 barrels of oil every day from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. That same pipeline would stretch through 195 miles of Nebraska, impacting nine of the state’s counties. Residents in affected areas are accusing Gov. Dave Heineman of failing to meet promises in his approval of the revised plan.
In an interview with the World-Herald, Jane Kleeb, a Nebraska resident and opponent of the pipeline, said the plan the governor approved would run over the state’s Ogallala Aquifer, representing a potentially dangerous situation in the case of a pipeline leak. The aquifer is one of the world’s largest supplier of groundwater, according to the Sierra Club.
In a letter to Obama, Heineman admits the proposed route runs through the Ogallala Aquifer, but claims “Keystone would be responsible for any cleanup” in the case of a spill.
Aside from concerns over a spill, environmental activists and organizations, including the Sierra Club, have slammed the proposal of the Keystone pipeline altogether, claiming its creation would perpetuate the threat of global warming through the extraction of tar sands in Alberta, Canada. In Obama’s inaugural address, he specifically cited climate change as a challenge to tackle in his second term. Now activists are using the president’s own language to urge him to reject the Canadian company’s proposal.
Other landowners are taking legal action to stop pipeline construction, claiming the governor’s move was unconstitutional on the grounds that it gave him ultimate review authority, which they argue should be given to the state’s Public Service Commission. Three landowners sued the governor — their case is pending in Lancaster County Court.
The U.S. State Department is conducting its final review of the Keystone proposal and is expected to release its final environmental impact statement in March. The report approved and submitted by Heineman will be used for this process.
Oil companies are optimistic the Keystone pipeline will finally be approved, pointing to the economic benefits for both Canada and America. A report released by TransCanada in 2012 states the construction of the pipeline would create 20,000 jobs — 13,000 in construction and 7,000 in manufacturing.
“With the approval from Nebraska in hand, the president can be confident that the remaining environmental concerns have been addressed,” Marty Durbin, the oil lobby’s executive vice president said in an interview with the New York Times. “We hope President Obama will finally green-light KXL (Keystone XL) as soon as possible and get more Americans back to work.”
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