It came at the 11th hour (and may have had election-year overtones), but the U.S. State Department's decision to take another look at the Keystone XL pipeline route was prudent.
Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones said federal officials heard Nebraskans' concerns about protecting the ecologically sensitive Sand Hills and Ogallala Aquifer. She acknowledged that while other routes were examined over the past three years, the agency's review didn't look at a small detour around the Sand Hills.
"We have decided really to focus on looking at alternative routes that would minimize or avoid the Sand Hills. And we had not done that in the environmental impact statement," she said.
Jones said politics wasn't involved in the decision, although it allows President Barack Obama to avoid choosing between backers — environmentalists and labor unions — before November 2012.
Importantly, the decision didn't reject the need for the pipeline or the tar-sands oil it would carry from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. It left the head of pipeline builder TransCanada saying, "We remain confident Keystone XL will ultimately be approved."
It guaranteed Nebraska legislators time to decide whether the state needs its own law on pipeline routes. And it said the Sand Hills of Nebraska are worth another look.