Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nebraskans Get Final Say in TransCanada's New Keystone XL Pipeline Route

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nebraskans Get Final Say in TransCanada's New Keystone XL Pipeline Route

Article excerpt

Nebraskans get say in new Keystone XL route

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WASHINGTON - A tiny town in rural Nebraska is expected to draw a big crowd on Tuesday for a public hearing into TransCanada's new Keystone XL pipeline route.

Both Nebraska officials and the Calgary-based energy giant say the new route skirts the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region of the state, a critical sticking point in the approval process that resulted in U.S. President Barack Obama rejecting TransCanada's original application earlier this year.

Environmentalists, meantime, charge the new route does no such thing and insist a crucial state aquifer remains at risk, setting the stage for what's sure to be a contentious hearing on the fairgrounds of the town of Albion.

The new route still goes over the Ogallala aquifer, follows the highly endangered whooping crane's migratory path and poses risks to native tribal artifacts, Jane Kleeb, head of Bold Nebraska, said in an interview on Monday.

"It's still a really bad place to come into the state," she said. "It's every bit as risky as the previous route."

Nebraska officials say they'll explain to the public why they suggest, in a draft report, that the new route addresses concerns about Sandhills.

Their draft report, released last month, says the so-called Nebraska Reroute avoids the region. It adds that the route reduces "the amount of fragile soils that are crossed in the northern portion of Nebraska."

The amended route also "establishes greater distances" between the pipeline and key sources of drinking water for Nebraskans.

At Tuesday's hearing, members of the public are welcome to make statements after attending an information session on the draft report, but there will be no debate, said Dave Bunstock, spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Equality.

"What we're looking to do is collect the public's comments and testimony so that we can bring those back and use that information in preparing our final report," he said Monday.

Mike Linder, the director of the department, said last week that officials "will carefully consider all additional comments made through the end of the hearing" before they finalize their report and hand it off to Nebraska Gov. …

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