Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has approved an alternate route of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline in a move applauded by pipeline owner TransCanada (NYSE: TRP ) .
In his approval, Heineman cited the economic benefit to the state and said the new route would avoid many areas of fragile soils in northern Nebraska. TransCanada says construction of Keystone XL will result in $418.1 million in economic benefits and support up to 4,560 new or existing jobs in Nebraska. [Click here to open a PDF version of Heineman's letter to the president and the secretary of state.] Heineman said the altered route will avoid Nebraska's Sand Hills region -- part of President Obama's earlier rejection criteria in January of last year -- and said "impacts on aquifers from a release should be localized and Keystone would be responsible for any cleanup."
The pipeline decision will now to go President Obama, who supported the southern section of the pipeline last March despite his earlier rejection of the project. The administration has delayed a decision on the project until March of this year.
Critics say the pipeline, which would run from Alberta to refineries bordering the Gulf of Mexico, would pose environmental hazards and worsen the United States' dependence on fossil fuels.
TransCanada president and CEO Russ Girling praised the Nebraska governor's move, saying in a press release, "Over the past year, we have been listening to Nebraskans as we worked to identify a new route for the Keystone XL Pipeline that avoided the Sandhills, protected sensitive areas and addressed as many concerns as possible... The need for Keystone XL continues to grow stronger as North American oil production increases and having the right infrastructure in place is critical to meet the goal of reducing dependence on foreign oil."
The Keystone pipeline is projected to cost more than $5 billion in total, according to TransCanada, and create more than 9,000 jobs. If the pipeline is approved, the company estimates it could enter service by late 2014 or 2015.