October 24, 2011 / 8:00 PM / 6 years ago

UPDATE 3-Nebraska gov to call session on Keystone pipeline

* Special legislative session to start Nov. 1
    * Session could lead to changes in pipeline's path, delays
    * Heineman opposes route in Nebraska, not pipeline itself
    * State senator had backed away from legislation last week

    By Timothy Gardner
    Oct 24 (Reuters) - Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman said on
Monday he will call a special session of the state legislature
over TransCanada Corp's proposed $7 billion oil sands
pipeline that would cross ecologically sensitive areas.
    Heineman, a Republican, wants TransCanada to change the
route of the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline away from
Nebraska's Sand Hills region, which sits atop the Ogallala
Aquifer, one of the largest sources of water for farms in the
central United States. He does not oppose the pipeline
outright.
    "I believe Nebraskans are expecting our best efforts to
determine if alternatives exist," Heineman said in a statement.
He has urged President Barack Obama and Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton to deny a presidential permit for the line
until the route is changed.
    If Nebraska succeeds in changing the route for the
pipeline, it could delay the project.
    The session in Nebraska's only legislative chamber will
determine whether the state can determine the siting of
pipelines within its borders. It will start on Nov. 1.
    The state could pass emergency legislation before the end
of the year, which is when the U.S. State Department hopes to
decide whether to greenlight the pipeline that would take oil
sands crude from Alberta to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, and
potentially to its ports for export, an aide to Heineman said.
    Supporters say the line would provide thousands of jobs and
increase oil imports from a friendly neighbor. Opponents say
oil sands crude causes more greenhouse gas emissions and that
the petroleum is more corrosive to pipelines than average crude
oil.
    Last week, Mike Flood, the nonpartisan speaker of the state
legislature, advised against a measure that would force
TransCanada to move the right-of-way from the Sand Hills,
saying such a move would unlikely hold up in court.
    On Monday, Flood, who worked with Heineman on setting the
start date for the session, said he also opposes the route but
that siting of pipelines in the state remains a complicated
legal issue.
    Last week TransCanada sent a letter to Flood in which the
company offered a $100 million performance bond and other oil
spill protection measures to the state's legislators in an
attempt to reduce opposition to the project.
    TransCanada has said it is too late in the federal approval
process to move the proposed path for the line. "The pipeline
takes the safest route -- physically and environmentally,"
Shawn Howard, a spokesman for TransCanada, said on Monday.

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