Could a New MOU Mean Keystone XL Will Be Expedited?

Jun 1, 2012

Photo: Jon Hagelson of Bloomberg

Free Enterprise recently interviewed Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman for a story on our upcoming Jobs Summit here at the Chamber on June 13.

We were talking about what makes Nebraska a great state for jobs, and of course, the conversation veered towards progress on the Keystone XL pipeline. The 1,700-mile oil pipeline built by TransCanada would run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and could create as many as 250,000 jobs by 2035. However, in January the administration rejected a permit to allow the project to move forward.

Since then, TransCanada and the state of Nebraska have been scrambling to come up with an alternate route.

Heineman was optimistic when we spoke to him, in part because he had just received a Memorandum of Understanding between the State Department and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality on May 24.

Nebraska is currently conducting an environmental impact review of the new proposed route, which should take about five months. Therefore, Heineman says the MOU “just basically says when we get done with our environmental impact statement, they will accept that at the federal level so they don’t have to recreate it or redo it when we get to the federal level. That’s a key thing. If they decided they wouldn’t accept what we were doing in Nebraska and wanted to do it on their own—they’re not saying that, so I think that’s a very encouraging sign.”

So what does the MOU say? Heineman's office was kind enough to send us a copy, and while it doesn’t go quite as far as saying the State Department will bypass its’ own environmental review process, it does offer to “work together in preparing and completing in a timely manner, a collaborative environmental analysis of routes within Nebraska.”

And, in another encouraging sign, the MOU says the parties commit to “seek agreement on key steps in the environmental review in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort and to expedite the process to the extent practicable.”

Plus, the president has signaled that he wants to remove barriers and cut through red tape. In March, he ordered his administration to “expedite” the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline. Could expediting the Nebraska portion be the next step?

Heineman thinks so. “We kind of view that [MOU] as a positive sign that State Dept. wants to work with us.”

We hope Heineman is right. 

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