LINCOLN, Neb. — TransCanada will move the route of its planned oil pipeline out of the environmentally sensitive Sandhills area of Nebraska, two company officials announced Monday night.
Speaking at a news conference at the Nebraska Capitol, the officials said TransCanada would agree to the new route, a move the company previously said wasn’t possible, as part of an effort to push through the proposed $7 billion project. They expressed confidence the project would ultimately be approved.
Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada’s president for energy and oil pipelines, said rerouting the line would likely require 30 to 40 additional miles.
“We’re confident that collaborating with the state of Nebraska will make this process much easier,” Pourbaix said.
The announcement follows the federal government’s decision last week to delay a decision on a federal permit for the project until it studies new potential routes that avoid the Sandhills area and the Ogallala aquifer.
The proposed pipeline would carry crude oil from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.
Debate over the pipeline has drawn national attention focused largely on Nebraska, because the pipeline would cross the Sandhills — an expanse of grass-strewn, loose-soil hills — and part of the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies water to Nebraska and parts of seven other states.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman called a special legislative session to seek a legal and constitutional solution to the pipeline debate. But the session’s stated goal — to enact oil pipeline legislation — has lacked a clear consensus about what, if anything, state officials ought to do.
Environmentalists and some Nebraska landowners fear the pipeline would disrupt the region’s loose soil for decades, harm wildlife, and contaminate the aquifer. Business and labor groups who support the project say the criticism is overblown, and based more on opposition to oil than the project itself. They say the project will create construction jobs, although the exact number is disputed.