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Nebraska tells Keystone pipeline firm spots to avoid

By The Associated Press

This article was published December 29, 2011 at 1:23 p.m.

— The Canadian company that wants to build a $7 billion pipeline to carry tar sands oil across the Plains to refineries near the Gulf of Mexico now has an official map of environmentally sensitive areas to avoid in Nebraska.

State officials said Thursday that TransCanada will have to use a 10-year-old map of the Sandhills region as it develops a new route through Nebraska for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada agreed in November to develop the new route through Nebraska to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sandhills.

“Obviously, the applicant cannot propose the route without knowing the area to be avoided,” said Mike Linder, director of the Nebraska Department of Environmental quality.

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL project is designed to carry oil from Canada across Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. TransCanada also has proposed connecting it to the Bakken oil field in Montana and North Dakota.

The project has drawn criticism from environmental groups that raised concerns the pipeline could foul underground and surface water supplies, increase air pollution around refineries and harm wildlife.

The U.S. State Department cited concerns about the Keystone XL route, especially near the Sandhills and Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska, when it decided to delay approval of the project. The entire project remains on hold while a new route is developed and studied. The review process for the new route is expected to last six to nine months.

TransCanada officials say the company will follow through on its commitment to route the pipeline around the Sandhills.

The Keystone XL project is the second phase of a $13 billion underground pipeline network designed to move 1.5 million barrels of Canadian oil daily to U.S. refineries.

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