TransCanada gives no ground on pipeline route
October 12th, 2011
Norfolk, NE – TransCanada didn’t give any ground on moving its controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from the Sandhills in a meeting with state senators Tuesday. But the company promised to consider measures to improve response time in the event of a spill.
TransCanada representatives met with four state senators for four hours in the Norfolk offices of Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood. Afterwards, meeting participants said they had a good discussion. But on the key point of whether TransCanada would consider moving its proposed pipeline out of the Sandhills, where opponents fear it could hurt the land and pollute the Ogallala Aquifer, there was no movement. Flood put it this way: “I think we heard very clearly from TransCanada today that moving the route is not an acceptable solution from their standpoint.”
TransCanada official Alex Pourbaix said the company has worked for three years to get a favorable environmental impact statement for the proposed route, which it recently received.
“If we were to move that pipeline any significant distance, it would invalidate that federal approval and force us to go back and start all over again,” Pourbaix said. “That would take at least two, or maybe even three, more years.”
Pourbaix said that would not be acceptable to refineries in Texas where the oil is supposed to go.
“They have traditionally received a large portion of their crude oil from Mexico and Venezuela,” he said. “Mexican supplies are falling off and Venezuela has said very explicitly that when their existing supply contracts with U.S. refiners end, which is around the 2013-2014 time period, they intend to move their oil away from the U.S. to other markets. So our customers need a solution for their supply, and they can’t wait another four years for this pipeline.”
But Pourbaix said TransCanada is open to re-examining issues like how long it would take to respond to a spill.
“The senators made the comment about, what if on the 25th of December, when it’s -20, and there’s a leak in the Sandhills, how quickly could you guys respond? I think it’s a very reasonable request that TransCanada be thoughtful about positioning employees and equipment to deal with the very unlikely event of a spill.”
Pourbaix said the company would get back to the senators on that question as soon as a couple of days from now. Some senators have been advocating a special legislative session to consider legislation giving the state approval power over pipeline routes. Pourbaix said TransCanada is concerned that, too, would delay the project.
Flood said last week he thinks a majority of senators are leaning toward a special session. He said Tuesday’s meeting had not made it more or less likely, although he acknowledged serious legal questions about whether legislation could affect this project. Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton, who’s been promoting siting legislation, said she hasn’t given up.
“Time is still very much of the essence,” she said. “And we don’t have the ability to drag this out much longer before we need to make a decision one way or the other. But I do intend to keep moving forward with discussion of a special session.”
Down the block from Flood’s office, about a dozen demonstrators held signs opposing the pipeline. After hearing the results of the meeting, Malinda Frevert of the opposition group BOLD Nebraska accused TransCanada of arrogance for not agreeing to move the pipeline.
“There’s going to be a lot of public outrage if something doesn’t get done,” she said. “The citizens of Nebraska are clamoring, begging state senators to do something to protect our land and water because they don’t trust TransCanada.”
Labor union and business groups who have supported the pipeline on economic grounds were not on the scene, but have continued to maintain the project is environmentally sound.