The company behind the Keystone XL oil pipeline has proposed re-routing the U.S. portion in order to gain support from environmental groups that have pressured President Obama to block the project.
Canadian firm TransCanada Corp. has proposed to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) an alternative route. It cited Nebraskan fears that the pipeline, which would bring Alberta oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, originally passed through the highly erodible Sandhills region and could contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, a valuable source of drinking water.
The state hopes to send a finalized report to Gov. Dave Heineman (R) by the end of this year, the Nebraska DEQ said. He will have 30 days after that to rule on the new route.
Obama has delayed making a final decision on the U.S. leg of the pipeline until after the election, claiming that he does not have enough time to review the plan. Republicans argue that was a concession to environmentalists, who were key supporters of Obama’s 2008 campaign and had expressed concerns the president neglected their causes early in his term.
TransCanada has begun constructing the Canadian part of the pipeline in hopes that Obama’s hesitation to approve the U.S. share is a product of election-year worries. The administration has final say over the project because it crosses national boundaries.