Pipeline battle: from state to feds, to state

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September 21st, 2011

Omaha, NE – Governor Dave Heineman has been urging officials from TransCanada today to re-route the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is set to cross the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska. But he told reporters in a news conference they’re unlikely to budge.

Gov. Dave Heineman urged Nebraskans to attend two public hearings this month with the State Department, to support re-routing the Keystone XL pipeline. (Photo courtesy State of Nebraska)

Later in the day, U.S. Senator Ben Nelson issued a statement, outlining his comments to the Senate Appropriations Committee, in which he said Governors whose states are impacted by the pipeline route should have to sign off on the plans before the U.S. State Department approves them. Nelson also said Heineman has not been “proactive” in reviewing the plans.

During this year’s legislative session, several senators tried to push the Governor to deny the pipeline’s routing on his own. But Heineman said he did not have the power to do so, and that the authority to grant or deny the permit lay with the State Department, which oversees the process because the pipeline will cross international borders, transporting tar sand oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

In late August, Heineman sent a pointed letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, requesting they deny TransCanada’s permit to build the pipeline. In that letter, Heineman said the Obama administration should disapprove the permit and avoid risking “potential damage to Nebraska’s water.”

The State Department will hold two public hearings this month to gather public input on the pipeline, at Lincoln’s Pershing Auditorium on Tuesday and in Atkinson, NE on September 29th.

Heineman told reporters today he thinks Nebraskans can “have an impact” if a large number show up to the hearings.

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