Our friends at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently interviewed Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman for a story on their upcoming “Jobs Summit,” to take place on the 14th of June . . . and heard some very interesting news.
As most of you are aware, Nebraska has been the epicenter of dispute about the privately funded Keystone XL Pipeline, a project that has been in the works for years, but has been in doubt since President Obama rejected it, based on enviromental concerns . . . having to do with the pipeline’s route through Nebraska. At the time, energy-friendly voices wondered why the President didn’t simply grant conditional approval to the project, until a better route through Nebraska could be finalized.
Free Enterprise, the Chamber of Commerce’s news site, picks things up from there:
[T]he conversation veered towards progress on the Keystone XL pipeline. The 1,700-mile oil pipeline, built by TransCanada, would run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and could create as many as 250,000 jobs by 2035. However, in January the administration rejected a permit to allow the project to move forward.
Since then, TransCanada and the state of Nebraska have been scrambling to come up with an alternate route.
Heineman was optimistic when we spoke to him, in part because he had just received a Memorandum of Understanding between the State Department and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality on May 24.
Nebraska is currently conducting an environmental impact review of the new proposed route, which should take about five months. Therefore, Heineman says the MOU “just basically says when we get done with our environmental impact statement, they will accept that at the federal level so they don’t have to recreate it or redo it when we get to the federal level. That’s a key thing. If they decided they wouldn’t accept what we were doing in Nebraska and wanted to do it on their own—they’re not saying that, so I think that’s a very encouraging sign.”
So what does the MOU say? Heineman’s office was kind enough to send us a copy, and while it doesn’t go quite as far as saying the State Department will bypass its own environmental review process, it does offer to “work together in preparing and completing in a timely manner, a collaborative environmental analysis of routes within Nebraska.”
And, in another encouraging sign, the MOU says the parties commit to “seek agreement on key steps in the environmental review in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort and to expedite the process to the extent practicable.”
Plus, the president has signaled that he wants to remove barriers and cut through red tape. In March, he ordered his administration to “expedite” the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline. Could expediting the Nebraska portion be the next step?
The question remains as to whether TransCanada has lost its patience with U.S. obstructionism on this project: certainly its politicians continue to signal that they consider us less reliable, and may want to keep their options open in the future. Some have interpreted that to mean that they may see Alberta’s oil to the Chinese.
But the news from Nebraska may mean that the pipeline goes south, rather than west for shipment to China, after all. And that would be a very good thing.