* Nebraska officials say pipeline leak would hurt aquifer
* State Department approval delayed by EPA comments
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, Oct 20 Nebraskan officials are
urging the U.S. State Department to ensure a proposed $7
billion pipeline that plans to send Canadian crude to
refineries along the Gulf of Mexico would avoid a massive water
reservoir that irrigates agriculture in the nation's
Calgary-based TransCanada Corp (TRP.TO) had hoped to start
building the 2,000 mile (3,200 km) Keystone XL pipeline next
year, which would send crude from the country's oil sands.
The project could bring 510,000 barrels per day of crude
from one of America's closest allies to refineries in Texas and
Louisiana reducing the U.S. dependence on oil from Venezuela
and the Middle East.
But environmental concerns on issues such as greenhouse gas
emissions from producing, refining and burning oil sands, have
delayed the project.
The concern about water contamination follow recent
high-profile pipeline leaks in Illinois and Michigan on
Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO) ducts that deliver Canadian oil.
Nebraska's Governor Dave Heineman wrote a letter to U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that said the proposed
pipeline route would run 300 miles (480 km) over Nebraska and
the Ogallala aquifer. The aquifer, one of the world's largest,
spans eight states and yields nearly a third of the country's
water used for irrigation.
"Nebraskans are concerned that the proposed pipeline route
could contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer and I share that
concern," Heineman wrote in a letter dated Oct. 11, a copy of
which was obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.
Nebraska's farm sales in 2008 hit $17 billion, Heineman,
The State Department has indicated it may approve a line
bringing Canadian oil to the United States for energy security
"We've not yet signed off on it," Clinton said at an event
in San Francisco last week. "But we are inclined to do so and
we are for several reasons ... we'll either going to be
dependent on dirty oil from the (Persian) Gulf or dirty oil
from Canada," Clinton said.
She said she has to to consider all the energy factors in
when it comes to the nation's energy security.
Greenhouse gas emission concerns surrounding the oil sands
were one of factors that led the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency to request the State Department in July to revise its
draft environmental impact statement on the pipeline.
The EPA requested the State Department's final impact
statement include information concerning pipeline safety and
spill response capabilities. The State Department has the final
say on the project and has said it could make the decision by
the end of the year.
Crude from the oil sands, a tarry mix of petroleum and
grit, requires companies to burn large amounts of fossil fuels
to process and refine it. The lifetime carbon emissions of the
crude are higher than those of average oils burned in the
United States, though experts differ on how much worse they
U.S. Senator Mike Johanns, a Republican from Nebraska, also
sent a letter to Clinton on Oct. 14 urging the State Department
to consider other routes that would reduce risks to the
TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said the company chose
the rural route because it was less exposed to third party
bulldozers and other diggers that sometimes cause pipeline
leaks, and that there were fewer property owners along the
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner;editing by Sofina