The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said Thursday it has begun looking at alternative routes for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline suggested by its sponsor, Alberta-based TransCanada Corp. This means the start of a public hearing process by DEQ.

DEQ Director Mike Linder said the state’s review can now resume after Gov. Dave Heineman signed into law LB 1161 authorizing the environmental agency to review oil pipelines coming into the state (see Shale Daily, April 18). Linder said Nebraska’s review will include federal agency environmental review, and a major component of the review will be public access to information in the controversial case. LB 1161 became effective Wednesday.

A TransCanada spokesperson reiterated that the Nebraska DEQ is in charge of the routing review process now that the Canadian pipeline company has submitted a detailed report on alternative routing corridors. “This report also includes TransCanada’s preferred corridor to advance the Keystone XL pipeline project while realigning the route around the Sandhills.”

The company said it is using a 2001 definition of what the Sandhills constitute in Nebraska as defined by DEQ and federal agencies.

“Public participation will be important throughout this review, and DEQ will make every effort to provide information and invite comment throughout the process,” said Linder. DEQ will next announce the times and dates for a series of public information meetings in which statements will be taken and the plans submitted by TransCanada will be available for review.

Following the public information gathering, DEQ will provide initial feedback to the pipeline backers so they can finalize a single route. Linder said his department eventually needs to conduct a “more in-depth, on-the-ground definition” of the pipeline company’s preferred route.

DEQ will use contractor HDR Engineering for the review, taking into consideration meeting the National Environmental Policy Act requirements. Ultimately, federal authorities and the Nebraska governor will have to be satisfied with the selected alternate route.

The TransCanada submission, including the report and related information is available on the Nebraska Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement Project website.