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NEWS: US State Department considers rerouting Keystone XL away from Sandhills

The Nebraska Sandhills

The Nebraska Sandhills

Bloomberg reports, “The US State Department is weighing whether to seek a rerouting of TransCanada Corp.’s planned US$7-billion Keystone XL pipeline away from the Sandhills region of Nebraska, a department official said. The department is considering how to respond to concern among Nebraska citizens and public officials about the risk that TransCanada’s current plans may pose to the Sandhills, said the official familiar with the deliberations, who spoke on condition of anonymity yesterday about internal discussions. …The State Department, which has jurisdiction because the project crosses an international border, hasn’t made a decision on whether to require examination of a new route, the official said.”

100 kilometres of the proposed pipeline route run across the Sandhills, the recharge point for the Ogallala aquifer. In some areas the sand is so thin the aquifer’s waters surge above the surface. In her speech near the White House this past Sunday for the #Surround action, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, ‘The Ogallala Aquifer, (is) one of the most important water sources in the United States and already in deep distress from overuse. …A serious spill over this aquifer will cost jobs and livelihoods of millions of Americans who produce food from it.”

The news report adds, “Rerouting the pipeline wouldn’t resolve objections to the project from environmentalists (including the Council of Canadians), thousands of whom encircled the White House in a protest on Nov. 6. Groups such as Friends of the Earth also oppose the pipeline because they say extracting crude from Canada’s oil sands produces more greenhouse-gas emissions than conventional oil drilling. Environmental groups said today they were encouraged that the administration is weighing a change in the pipeline’s route.”

“The fate of the pipeline has grown ‘less secure’, Whitney Stanco, an analyst with MF Global’s Washington Research Group, said in a note to clients yesterday. ‘The odds favour approval, but an extended delay is looking more and more possible’, she said.”

Earlier this week, it was announced that the US Inspector General has launched a ’special review’ examining “the Department of State’s handling of the Environmental Impact Statement and National Interest Determination for TransCanada Corporation’s proposed Keystone XL permit process”.

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Bloomberg notes, “Nebraska residents expressed opposition to the route during State Department hearings on the pipeline, calling it a threat to drinking-water supplies… The state legislature is currently in a special session weighing measures to force a rerouting of the project. …Nebraska Governor David Heineman said in an interview on Bloomberg Television yesterday that he’d support the pipeline if it were moved away from the Ogallala aquifer. Nebraska lawmakers began committee hearings yesterday in Lincoln, the state capital, on five bills aimed at giving the state the power to reroute pipelines.”

On October 26, the Council of Canadians launched an e-mail campaign so that Canadians can send a message to all 49 members of the Nebraska legislature calling on them to vote in favour of rerouting the Keystone XL pipeline, and preferably to express their opposition to the whole project. The action alert message also notes, “We understand that our ambassador to the United States has lobbied Governor Heineman to support Keystone XL, as has our consul-general based in Minneapolis. We want you to know that they do not speak for all Canadians.” To send your message to the Nebraska legislature, please go to