LINCOLN — President Barack Obama's decision to support quick approval of an Oklahoma-to-Texas portion of the Keystone XL pipeline can't hurt the push to expedite the review of the crude-oil pipeline through Nebraska, a state senator said Wednesday.
Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion is the chief sponsor of a measure to restart the review of the pipeline's proposed detour around Nebraska's groundwater-rich Sand Hills region — a bill that is expected to be debated next week by the Nebraska Legislature.
Smith said that he's unsure if Obama's move will aid passage of his proposal, Legislative Bill 1161.
"But it does support the need for us to have LB 1161, so we can move forward on our part of this project," the senator said.
Bloomberg and other new outlets reported Wednesday that Obama will use a visit Thursday to an oil storage hub in Cushing, Okla., to announce that his administration is making TransCanada's pipeline from there to refineries on the Texas coast an infrastructure priority.
That would qualify the project for an accelerated review of permit applications.
The announcement would come two months after his administration rejected a federal permit for the 1,700-mile, $7.6 billion project amid political wrangling in Washington over national energy and jobs policies and amid uncertainty over a new route around the Sand Hills.
Obama's latest decision received immediate condemnation from environmental groups, which said the president "has gone 180 degrees in the wrong direction in less than 180 days."
"It's inexcusable that the administration is cutting corners to support building this dirty tar sands oil pipeline in parts," said Kim Huynh of Washington, D.C.-based Friends of the Earth. "The president cannot fulfill his promise to protect the climate and transition us to 21st century clean energy while bending over backwards to help big oil companies tap the continent's biggest carbon bomb."
Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska also expressed disappointment.
"When you fast-track a project, you cut corners, and no one should cut corners when folks' land and water is at risk," Kleeb said.
LB 1161, if adopted, would require the governor to give the final OK for a new route around the Sand Hills based on an environmental review conducted by HDR of Omaha, the contractor hired and paid by the state.
Smith said that if Nebraska's review were restarted, it could take six to eight months to complete.
Bold Nebraska and the Sierra Club of Nebraska have both expressed opposition to LB 1161. They have said the bill is unconstitutional "special legislation" that will only benefit TransCanada, and its passage will ensure a lawsuit on that issue.
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