Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has approved a new route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline through Nebraska that will cross part of the Ogallala aquifer, an important groundwater supply near the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region, the Associated Press reported.
His decision may convince the Obama administration and the US State Department to permit the $7B Canada-to-Texas pipeline to move forward, Fox News reported.
The Obama administration put the pipeline on hold in Jan. 2012, in part because Nebraska conservationists and landowners complained that a previously-suggested route through their state would damage the environment, Fox News reported.
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Heineman previously said he would block the building of the pipeline through the Sandhills, a region of grass-covered sand dunes, the AP reported. He said the new route skirts the area.
Activists aren’t convinced the route is safe. "Governor Heineman just performed one of the biggest flip-flops that we've seen in Nebraska political history,” Jane Kleeb, executive director of the group Bold Nebraska, told the AP.
In a letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Heineman said pipeline operator TransCanada had promised to clean up any oil spills, the AP reported.
"Construction and operation of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, with the mitigation and commitments from Keystone, would have minimal environmental impacts in Nebraska," Heineman wrote, according to Fox News.
According to the AP:
The governor said the project would result in $418.1 million in economic benefits for the state and $16.5 million in taxes from the pipeline construction materials.