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Keystone developer renews effort to build in Nebraska

Feb. 17, 2017 at 9:03 a.m.


LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline said Thursday it is once again seeking state approval for a route through Nebraska.

TransCanada said it filed an application with the state commission that regulates oil pipelines.

The Canadian company's previous attempts to start construction in Nebraska have been thwarted by activists and some landowners who worry it could damage property and contaminate groundwater supplies. Opponents have already met to discuss how they might be able to halt the project.

In a statement, the company said its project would emphasize safety and respect for the environment. TransCanada said its preferred route would avoid an area the state defines as the Nebraska Sandhills, an ecologically sensitive region of grass-covered sand dunes with high water tables.

"This application has been shaped by direct, on-the-ground input from Nebraskans," TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said in a statement. "The thousands of Nebraskans we have met over the last eight years understand the value of this project and what it means to the state."

The Keystone XL would travel from Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, where it would connect with an existing Keystone pipeline network to carry crude oil to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

Republican President Donald Trump has said he supports the pipeline, and last month he signed executive memos to make it easier for the project to move forward.

In Nebraska, opponents plan to focus initially on elected state officials who have the power to reject the project within Nebraska.

The pipeline opposition group Bold Nebraska will launch a letter-writing campaign this month aimed at the Nebraska Public Service Commission, an elected, five-member board that will review the project. The current commission is comprised of four Republicans and one Democrat.

The commission regulates "common carriers," such as a taxis and pipelines, that are used to transport goods, energy or people. Commissioners generally take about seven months to approve or deny an application, but they can postpone a decision for up to a year. Their decision hinges on whether they believe the project serves a public interest, based on evidence presented at a public hearing."We will follow all aspects of the law as we fulfill the duties assigned to us by the Legislature," said Jeff Pursley, the commission's executive director.

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