A Canadian study published last week that raised public health concerns about oilsands solidified some opponents of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would carry oilsands production from Alberta. Opponents blasted a separate report by Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to reroute the pipeline through the state.
DEQ issued a final evaluation report regarding TransCanada’s alternative route for the northern portion of Keystone, which opposition group Bold Nebraska said was “flawed,” alleged that the report by Omaha-based HDR does business with TransCanada.
However, DEQ and TransCanada officials contend that the rerouting avoids environmentally sensitive areas in the Sand Hills region, and it carries 57 special conditions that the pipeliner agreed to fulfill. TransCanada CEO Russell Girling said the document was “the culmination of a rigorous and comprehensive review” by regulators, including “extensive public input” gathered during a seven-month comment period.
Girling emphasized that the report had concluded that normal operation of the northern portion of TransCanada’s proposed $7 billion, 1,700-mile project from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries would have “no effect on ground or surface water quality or use” in Nebraska.
Opposition group Bold Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb said the new route still impacts the Ogallala aquifer group even though it skirts the Sand Hills. “We read the DEQ report and quickly realized it was a $5 million document written by and for TransCanada,” she said during a conference call. The group and some landowners claim that threats to the aquifer and impacts on the state’s agricultural economy “continue to be unanswered.” Kleeb accused the DEQ of lacking a “single, independent study on how the overall aquifer will be affected from a tar sands spill.”
A new report by university researchers in Ontario indicated last week that a half century of oilsands development in Alberta has affected water systems nearly 100 kilometers from the development. The study’s authors, which focuses on cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons getting into lakes and rivers from the oilsands, urged further review of the potential harmful impacts.
Opposition landowners in Nebraska also are challenging a law enacted last year by the state legislature (LB 1161) giving the governor the authority to decide if a proposed Keystone route through the state is acceptable. A district court judge at the end of last year ruled that the landowners could move forward with four of its arguments in a lawsuit related to the alleged unconstitutionality of the state law.
While the legal and public relations wars continue, TransCanada said its priority is to work with Nebraska to identify “the most appropriate route” and it is awaiting Gov. Dave Heineman’s decision, which is expected by early February.
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