LINCOLN — Groups for and against the controversial Keystone XL pipeline are organizing protests and press conferences in advance of the final public hearing about the proposed pipeline route across Nebraska.
The hearing is scheduled at 6 p.m. today at the Boone County Fairgrounds in Albion, which is along the new route designed to avoid Nebraska’s ecologically fragile Sand Hills.
The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality will collect comments about its review of the route proposed by TransCanada Inc. for the high-pressure, 36-inch-diameter crude oil pipeline that will link tar sand mines in Canada with oil refineries on the Gulf Coast.
TransCanada, labor unions, the conservative Americans for Prosperity and the American Petroleum Institute have scheduled press events in Albion and Omaha in support of the pipeline, while anti-pipeline groups including Bold Nebraska, the Nebraska Farmers Union and the Sierra Club have organized a protest prior to the meeting.
Bold and the Sierra Club released a “citizens review” of the pipeline route Monday, calling it a “risky” route that doesn’t avoid the Sand Hills or the Ogallala Aquifer.
“TransCanada told our state that it was ‘impossible’ to move the pipeline out of the Sand Hills but continues to avoid giving a clear reason why they simply will not move the pipeline next to the Keystone 1 route,” stated the 70-page document.
TransCanada officials have said moving the pipeline to parallel the existing Keystone 1 pipeline across eastern Nebraska would greatly increase the cost and increase environmental risks by lengthening the route.
An information session is scheduled from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the fairgrounds. Hearing testimony will be limited to five minutes per speaker.
The Department of Environmental Quality and its contractor, HDR of Omaha, are expected to issue a final report around the end of the year. Gov. Dave Heineman, who has voiced support for the pipeline project, will then have 30 days to decide whether to approve the route.
The Obama administration has the final say on the overall pipeline project.
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