NEW YORK — Governor Dave Heineman of Nebraska approved a revised route for the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska on Tuesday, brushing aside vocal opposition from some citizen groups and putting final approval of the pipeline project squarely in the hands of the Obama administration.
The decision came a day after President Obama made an assertive pledge in his inaugural address to tackle climate change in his second term. Opponents of the pipeline, which would bring heavy crude oil from tar sands formations in Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast, say that its extraction and consumption will significantly worsen global warming and that Obama’s decision will be a test of his intentions.
Heineman, a Republican, said in a letter to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that his state’s review found that the new route avoided sensitive lands and aquifers. Obama had rejected the previous route last January on the grounds that construction of the pipeline threatened Nebraska’s Sand Hills region and that a spill could contaminate the critical Ogallala Aquifer.
Heineman said that the pipeline’s operator, TransCanada, had assured him and state environmental officials that the chances of a spill would be minimized and that the company would assume all responsibility for a cleanup in case of an accident.
The State Department, which must review the 1,700-mile pipeline because it crosses an international border, is in the final stages of preparing an environmental-impact statement on the project. An earlier version found that the project would have minimal adverse effects along its route.
The American Petroleum Institute, a strong advocate of the project, applauded Nebraska’s action, saying that it removed a critical hurdle to completion of the pipeline.
Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, a citizens’ advocacy group that is staunchly opposed to the pipeline, assailed Heineman’s move.