As was expected, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman on Tuesday signed into law a measure allowing the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) to resume its review and oversight of an alternate route for the northern portion of the Keystone XL oil pipeline project. It is effective Wednesday.

The measure (LB 1161) had been approved last Thursday by the one-house Nebraska state legislature 44-5 with strong backing from Keystone’s sponsor, TransCanada Corp. Opponents accused lawmakers of caving in to the Alberta-based pipeline company (see Shale Daily, April 13).

TransCanada said the law’s passage indicates that lawmakers and many citizens “understand the importance” of advancing the project, which it said will create tens of thousands of jobs — directly and indirectly — and help clear the Midcontinent bottleneck for getting oil to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

“The need for the real jobs that Keystone XL will create has not diminished, nor has the desire to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil,” said TransCanada, which called the two-part 1,700-mile pipeline “a critical piece of North American energy infrastructure.”

TransCanada plans to resume discussions with NDEQ on alternative routes for the oil pipeline. “Very shortly we will submit a report that assesses alternative routing corridors and identifies a proposed preferred corridor,” a company spokesperson said.

Heineman called the review process for alternative routes “a top priority for Nebraska,” noting that his state intends to move forward reviewing any future pipelines that “will create jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil.”

Since the Obama administration in January denied TransCanada’s first permit request for Keystone (see Shale Daily, Jan. 19), Nebraska has been the focus of TransCanada’s decision to divide the project into two parts. The northern half, Keystone XL, would traverse the state.

TransCanada has said it will apply, probably in May, for a permit for the Gulf Coast portion of the project, which would carry oil from Cushing, OK, to the Gulf of Mexico. The company then could seek an amendment at a later date for the Nebraska portion (see Shale Daily, March 20).