"The on-again, off-again Keystone XL pipeline gained new traction in Nebraska on Wednesday.
State legislators authorized the state Department of Environmental Quality to begin evaluating options for a new route outside the sensitive Nebraska Sandhills, the marshy hills and grasslands that lie atop the nation’s most important agricultural aquifer.
Critics of the pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, say the legislation amounts to a rubber stamp for TransCanada. The Canadian company is maneuvering to build the $7-billion pipeline, and the project's political travails have become a poster child for the nation's energy woes.
The bill, passed on a 44-5 vote, sidesteps an earlier law adopted in a special session of the Legislature only last fall. That measure requires most new oil pipelines to undergo a rigorous review process through the publicly elected Public Service Commission.
The new measure instead allows the Department of Environmental Quality to study the route. It also allows the governor — who has already said he wants the pipeline to go forward, as long as it avoids the Sandhills — to decide whether to approve or deny it.
Gov. Dave Heineman is expected to sign the bill into law, though opponents already are considering the possibility of constitutional challenges."
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"For the first time since President Obama issued a controversial order halting its progress, the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline is once again on track for bureaucratic review after TransCanada submitted a new route through Nebraska designed to avoid environmentally sensitive areas.
The new plan, which TransCanada submitted to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality on Wednesday, takes the Keystone project out of the deep freeze that began in January when Obama agreed with the recommendation of the State Department to reject the initial pipeline application.
This new development, first reported by Fox News, allows Nebraska officials to review the impact of the pipeline's adjusted route. It also opens the door for the pipeline's builder, TransCanada, to submit a new complete proposal covering the entire length of the pipeline to the State Department for its review."
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