Nebraska agency to issue final Keystone XL evaluation in January: spokesman
New York (Platts)--27Dec2012/325 pm EST/2025 GMT
Nebraska's Department of Environmental Quality could issue as early as
next week its final evaluation on the Keystone XL project to the state's
governor, a DEQ spokesman said Thursday.
"Right now it's looking like early January, but I still don't have a
definitive date" on the report's release, Nebraska DEQ spokesman Brian
McManus said Thursday. The report is "very extensive," with input from a
December 4 public hearing in which 105 people testified, he said.
"Even with everyone going full-bore on it, it's taken that amount of
time," McManus said.
Governor Dave Heineman is widely expected to give his blessings for
Keystone XL, then forward it to the US State Department within 30 days.
A spokeswoman with the State Department said last week that the agency
had no scheduled release date for the project's draft supplemental
environmental impact statement. A public comment period would follow the
report's release, though State has not said how long that period would be.
The American Petroleum Institute, which supports the pipeline project,
in early December said that it does not anticipate a decision from the Obama
administration on Keystone XL before the second quarter of 2013.
TransCanada this year moved to split the original 1,700 mile Keystone XL
oil sands pipeline project into two segments. The northern segment will run
some 850 miles from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska, carrying up
to 700,000 b/d initially and up to 830,000 b/d after planned pumping upgrades.
Separately, TransCanada this year began construction on the southern
segment, calling it the Gulf Coast Project, which will run from Cushing,
Oklahoma, to Nederland, Texas, near the region's refinery belt.
TransCanada has said the Gulf Coast Project "has its own independent
value and will go ahead regardless" of whether the company receives a permit
application on the bi-national segment.
TransCanada spokesman Grady Semmens said in an email December 21 the
company has "now completed about 35% of the Gulf Coast Pipeline Project."
"This project is proceeding on schedule to be operational before the end
of 2013," Semmens said.
The controversial project could yet face roadblocks in 2013. Scores
of environmentalists and landowners have mounted efforts to stop or slow the
project. Beyond Youtube video galore of activists chained to trees or rallied
around the White House, Nebraska and Texas Keystone XL opponents are also
airing concerns and seeking action in local courts and with state lawmakers.
A Nebraska judge has yet to rule in a case Nebraska residents have
brought, which argues the state improperly weakened pipeline siting authority
laws, which they say could favor the project's passage through the state.
TransCanada is still negotiating with Nebraska landowners over access to
easements. Pipeline opponents are enthused about the possibility for stronger
eminent domain legislation in Nebraska, said Keystone XL opponent Jane Kleeb
of Nebraska citizen group BOLD.
LEGISLATORS BANDING WITH ADVOCACY GROUP
Nebraska State Senator Annette Dubas is considering introducing eminent
domain legislation, according to a Dubas legislative aide, who did not want
to be identified. While no proposal has yet been drawn up, the bill's purpose
"would be clarifying existing eminent domain laws for everyone that would be
affected" by the pipeline, the aide said.
Meanwhile, some Nebraska landowners have banded with advocacy group
NEAT, or Nebraska Easement Action Team. The group formed in May 2012 with the
aim of advising landowners of their rights should TransCanada press for
easement access, and devise strategies to get "the very best" terms possible,
said NEAT lawyer Brian Jorde.
In addition to varying pay-out terms for easement access, some
TransCanada contracts have open-ended terms on questions such as how long
they might access a landowner's property or liability matters, Jorde said.
"Why should they have the right to the easement to infinity?" Jorde asked.
"We will do everything we can that defines the rights of landowners."
TransCanada now negotiates with NEAT in drawing up contracts, Jorde
said. "They are interested in negotiating with us," he said. "Every word,
period, and comma on the document, everything from A to Z" gets scrutinized.
On another front, Kleeb and others are pressing Nebraska counties to
seek concessions from TransCanada should Keystone XL get greenlighted.
Wish list requests include: getting 1,000-foot setbacks between the
pipeline and main livestock areas; baseline water testing at six-month
intervals; getting proper oil spill response equipment in all counties rather
than having essential equipment located six-to-12 hours away, Kleeb said.
Kleeb's group is planning a pipeline safety seminar in Nebraska with the
Pipeline Safety Trust, formed from a settlement after a 1999 Olympic pipeline
explosion killed three people in Bellingham, Washington.
Asked if these requests assumes Keystone XL's pipeline's inevitability
through the Great Plains state, Kleeb said: "It's about us being
responsible... it would be irresponsible for me as a leader not to be working
at all levels."
In Texas, meanwhile, the state's legislature plans to address eminent
domain reforms once its session convenes in early January.
A 2011 Texas Supreme Court decision questioned the privilege of eminent
domain that pipeline companies enjoy and asked the state's legislature to
review the matter. The court's push comes amid national debate over Keystone
XL and as a frenzy of pipeline building in Texas have exasperated both rural
and suburban residents.
A handful of Texas property owners are contesting the Canadian pipeline
company's eminent domain claims in local courts, with cases set to continue
--Leslie Moore Mira, email@example.com
--Edited by Robert DiNardo, firstname.lastname@example.org