New Route Means New Delays for Keystone XL Pipeline

Nebraska's largest electric utility announced this week that last month's revision to the proposed route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline would delay work on transmission lines for the project. This means more progress on the pipeline will be delayed until 2015 at least, even if it receives presidential approval.

TransCanada, the company actually building the pipeline, had originally set a deadline for construction of transmission lines to be completed by the end of 2014. But Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) officials admitted that the revised route, approved by Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman (D) in January, would delay the project, NPPD Chief Operating Officer describing the original deadline as "wishful thinking."

The pipeline's original route was rejected by President Barack Obama early in 2012, but revisions have continued since then to make the pipeline less of an environmental eyesore. Specifically, the U.S. State Department, which has jurisdiction over the project because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border, sought proposals to reroute the pipeline around Nebraska's environmentally-sensitive Sand Hills region.

TransCanada made the changes and received Heineman's approval, but the revision also complicated the other infrastructure changes that were necessary for the pipeline's construction.

The project has been a lightning rod for controversy, with thousands of protesters descending on Washington earlier this month to protest the pipeline. Their objections are economic and environmental, with opponents arguing that the project won't create as many jobs as TransCanada claims, and that the tar sands oil the pipeline will transport from Alberta, Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast will only further increase America's dependency on fossil fuels.

- Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer

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