Nebraska provides TransCanada with map identifying Sandhills Regions to be avoided in designing alternative route for Keystone XL pipeline
The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) has released a map of the areas that it considers to be Nebraska Sandhills, based on an analysis of a variety of existing data. NDEQ is conveying this to TransCanada for reference as the company develops a proposed new route for the Nebraska portion of the Keystone XL pipeline.
NDEQ Director Mike Linder said this was an important step resulting from legislation which was passed in November relating to the development of an alternative route that avoids the Nebraska Sandhills.
Obviously, the applicant cannot propose the route without knowing the area to be avoided. NDEQ has been reviewing available information and has selected a map of ecoregions which was finalized in 2001 as best depicting the Sandhills region.—Mike Linder
This map, titled “Ecoregions of Nebraska and Kansas” was a multi-year project involving numerous state and federal agencies, including the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NDEQ, the US Geological Survey (USGS), Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC), and the US Forest Service (USFS).
|The Nebraska Sandhills (in yellow). Source: NDEQ. Click to enlarge.|
TransCanada agreed in November to develop a new route through Nebraska to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sandhills. The entire project remains on hold while a new route is developed and studied.
TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL project is designed to carry oil from Canada across Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. TransCanada also has proposed connecting it to the Bakken oil field in Montana and North Dakota.
New US legislation, signed by President Obama, contains a provision requiring a US decision on the Keystone XL permit within 60 days; should the President take no action on the permit decision, the new law (Public Law Nº 112-78) then mandates that the permit shall be in effect, given requisite permits from Canadian authorities and relevant Federal, State, and local governmental agencies. The law specifically requires the reconsideration of routing of the Keystone XL pipeline within the State of Nebraska.
When TransCanada submits alternative route information, NDEQ will move forward in the development of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which will consider a variety of potential environmental impacts.
NDEQ will provide opportunities for public participation during the process. Early in the process, the agency will conduct a series of information sessions to discuss what is being proposed and solicit public input. Later, when a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is developed, a formal public comment period will be held.
Background on NDEQ’s new responsibilities. On 22 November, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman signed LB4 into law, which provides new responsibilities to NDEQ relating to supplemental environmental impact statements involving oil pipelines. The first application of the new law is the development of a supplemental environmental impact statement for the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.
The legislation assigns NDEQ to work with the US Department of State throughout the review. Negotiations continue with the US Department of State to finalize a Memorandum of Understanding detailing how NDEQ’s environmental review process will fit into the federal review process.