Earlier this month, the White House officially announced it would re-evaluate the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Department of State ("Department") is required to review Presidential Permit applications for trans-border pipelines and determine whether such a project is in the “national interest.” Since 2008, the Department has been reviewing TransCanada’s application for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project. Concerns about the proposed route’s impact on the Nebraska Sandhills resulted in the Nebraska legislature convening a special session to consider the issue. Based on those and related concerns, the Department determined it was necessary to examine alternative routes that would avoid the Sandhills. The Department estimates issuance of a supplemental environmental impact statement (“SEIS”), pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, in the first quarter of 2013.
While state law primarily governs routes for interstate petroleum pipelines, until today, Nebraska lacked such laws. On November 22, 2011, Nebraska lawmakers passed the Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act (LB1), which will give authority for siting future oil pipelines to the Nebraska Public Service Commission, and LB4, designed to implement a compromise with TransCanada to re-route the Keystone XL pipeline away from the Sandhills. Both bills passed unanimously, and Governor Heineman immediately signed them into law. LB4 will allow the state to contribute up to $2 million for the SEIS to the extent it examines the new portion of the Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska. The State of Nebraska, through the Department of Environmental Quality, will work with federal officials to complete that analysis. The legislation also vests the Governor with authority to approve the new pipeline route.