WASHINGTON, Nov.10- The U.S. Department of State announced its decision today to seek additional information on alternate routes for the Keystone XL Pipeline. The Department’s review of TransCanada’s application for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project began in 2008. The controversial route proposed through the Sand Hills of Nebraska raised considerable objections due to the high concentration of wetlands, a sensitive ecosystem, and extensive areas of shallow groundwater. 

“As a result of this process, particularly given the concentration of concerns regarding the environmental sensitivities of the current proposed route through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska, the Department has determined it needs to undertake an in-depth assessment of potential alternative routes in Nebraska,” according to a State Department press release.

In the statement, the department said a renewed pipeline project review, along with the time typically required for environmental reviews and public comment, could be completed by the first quarter of 2013 at the earliest.

"I will note the timing looks suspiciously political. Why would this review require eighteen months?” asked Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) in a statement. “The State Department spent many months examining multiple routes through Nebraska, one of which is adjacent to the Keystone pipeline operating today. The State Department needs to provide a clear explanation as to why it would take an additional year and a half to analyze alternative routes, and to eliminate the current proposed route."

Johanns said he appreciated the effort to identify a more appropriate route through Nebraska, but added the State Department should make it clear that the current proposed route is officially off the table. 

The National Farmers Union president, Roger Johnson, praised the State Department’s decision to seek potential alternatives for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and sought to contribute to the department’s extended review.

“NFU policy opposes any infrastructure or resource development that jeopardizes the health, safety and quality of the Ogallala and other freshwater aquifer resources,” Johnson said. “In formal comments submitted earlier this year, NFU advised the State Department that alternate routes with existing pipeline infrastructure would be more suitable options.”


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