When the Legislature passed a law allowing the state to regulate the route an oil pipeline took across Nebraska, the idea was that officials would be able to assess risk and steer the pipeline away from environmentally sensitive areas such as the Sand Hills. That process seems to be working well for the Keystone XL pipeline.
A preliminary review by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality indicates that Trans- Canada Inc., promoter of the high-pressure pipeline from Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries, has addressed most of the concerns raised in July by a previous DEQ report. That earlier report asked TransCanada to avoid areas of sandy soil and some community drinking-water supplies.
The new review found that the company had minimized sandy areas and avoided water supplies for two communities. It also said that TransCanada had successfully bypassed the Sand Hills region.
The report also noted that the company would come up with an emergency response plan in case of leaks and would keep a $200 million liability insurance plan in effect. Other concessions the company made include baseline testing for domestic and livestock water wells near the pipeline and identifying a range of crude oil mixtures that would flow through the line.
TransCanada has made compromises in its route and procedures, and the state has obtained concessions that the DEQ deemed necessary to protect Nebraskans. Nebraska’s pipeline regulation law appears to be working as it should. It was passed so that Nebraskans would have a say on where and under what conditions oil pipelines, including Keystone XL, were located — and that is what it is doing.