Keystone XL pipeline gets boost from Nebraska report, but real fight remains – by Claudia Cattaneo (National Post – January 5, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

The countdown over the fate of the Keystone XL oil pipeline — the new and improved version — has begun. A report from Nebraska Friday found TransCanada Corp.’s proposed re-route of its Canada-to-United States line avoids many sensitive ecological regions in the state and generally paints a positive picture of the proposal.

The 2,000-page report from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) is one of four big hurdles facing the Canadian project on the road to a presidential permit — and the next three could be more politically charged as the debate picks up where it left off before the U.S. presidential election.

The other three are: a final recommendation by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, to the U.S. government in the next 30 days; a supplemental environmental impact statement by the Department of State, under the new leadership of John Kerry, that will incorporate Mr. Heineman’s recommendation; and a national interest determination by the president, expected to be handed down after the first quarter.

Environmental organizations, Keystone’s dogged opponents, are planning to make the most of it. They are ramping up to defeat the project as part of a bigger climate change agenda, which they hope will regain prominence during Barack Obama’s second term as president. Indeed, they are framing the pipeline as one the most important environmental decision facing his administration.

Their campaign will move into high gear with a demonstration organized by on Feb. 17, President’s Day, in Washington, when thousands are expected to head to the White House “and tell President Obama to shut down the climate-killing Keystone XL pipeline once and for all.”

The other camp will also be active. U.S. unions, the manufacturing sector, the oil lobby, Congressional leaders are expected to voice their support for the project as decision day approaches.

To be sure, the Nebraska findings provide an early boost for Keystone XL, whose construction is essential to unwinding pipeline bottlenecks to the U.S. that are depressing Canadian oil prices.

Opposition in Nebraska was central to President Obama’s rejection of the project last year.

The report found:

• The re-routed Keystone XL avoids the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills area but would cross the High Plains aquifer. However, “impacts on aquifers from a release should be localized and Keystone would be responsible for any cleanups;”

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