Where Not to Put the Keystone XL Pipeline

Photo by Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)

The Canadian company behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring crude from the country’s oil sands to refineries in Texas, got a little gift to end out the year from the Nebraska government this week: a map of where not to put the pipeline.

The pipeline ran into a snag earlier this year after Nebraska lawmakers opposed the route planned by the company, TransCanada, which would have gone through an environmentally-sensitive region known as the Nebraska Sandhills. The Sandhills are home to a giant freshwater aquifer that is used for water supply. (The pipeline also met with opposition from several environmental groups, who said it would increase reliance on fossil fuels.)

The ground is so thin in some parts of the area that groundwater on occasion rises to the surface. Water there is used primarily for irrigation, but it’s also used for drinking water by some 2 million people, according to the US Geological Survey.

Nebraska lawmakers passed legislation in November saying an alternative route that avoids the Sandhills must be found in order for the project to go forward. With the release of this map, it seems Nebraska wants to give the pipeline company that opportunity.

The magic number for the pipeline these days is sixty: just sixty miles of pipeline that have to be re-routed around the sand hills region of Nebraska (or about 3.5 percent of the entire project, which would total 1,700 miles), and just sixty days for the Obama administration to make a decision on it.

If a route can be found around or through the sand hills, it’s possible the project could be approved. A spokesperson for TransCanada told the The Canadian Press Tuesday that the sand hills section is the only one that needs to be figured out, as the rest of the pipeline has virtually been approved. “It’s not overriding some environmental review that has to take place,” TransCanada spokesperson Shawn Howard told the news agency, “It’s not changing that review. This bill was carefully crafted, it respected that.”

That bill he’s referring to is the one passed by the U.S. Congress last week and signed by the president to extend the payroll tax cut and force a decision by the Obama administration on the pipeline within sixty days. TransCanada says the bill speeds up the construction process. And now the company has an exact idea of what areas they must avoid.

“Obviously, the applicant cannot propose the route without knowing the area to be avoided,” Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) Director Mike Linder said in a statement announcing the release of the map. “NDEQ has been reviewing available information and has selected a map of ecoregions which was finalized in 2001 as best depicting the Sandhills region.”

Here’s the map from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ). The yellow shading represents the Sandhills region:

Map by Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality

This map shows areas the Keystone Pipeline must avoid

It appears at a glance that there is a gap for the pipeline to go through that could meet the requirements of the Nebraska government. Now it’s up to TransCanada to use this map and submit an alternate route for consideration, the NDEQ says.

UPDATE: Here is a map of the proposed pipeline created by NPR:

Map by NPR

A map of the existing and proposed Keystone XL pipelines

Comments

  • http://twitter.com/iveyr Bob Ivey

    Why the pipeline at all? Better to build a refinery in Nebraska.

    • Nebraska

      How about a refinery in Canada?

    • Lisa Boucher

      Why the pipeline at all? Because the denial of global warming is rampant — which is why Terrence Henry assumed the role of industry mouthpiece and completely ignored the elephant in the living room. 

      We live in a culture based on theft. In this case, it’s theft from future generations. You see, a few hundred temporary construction jobs are more important than a livable world for our great-grandchildren.

  • Swmilawnsvc

    I agree, why pipe 0il when it could be refined closer to source. I cant imagine its cost effective when the construction and future maintenance of a pipeline are figured in.

    • ironman2

      Then your would have to build separate product pipelines for gas, jet and nat gas.  Better to refine it in market that have the product pipelines.

  • OutOfBox

    Don’t we also need new refineries?  Then build a refinery with a shorter pipelines!  Surely this can’t be the Texas Oil Cartel “hoodwinking” us?

  • Jon Swanson

    I would have liked more information from this article.  According to the keystone maps on the net, the proposed path would be east of all of this, through Stanton, NE. I have yet to see a definitive location proposal yet and was hopeful that this article would have given that. You show the sand hills, but not the proposed route….?

  • CT

    How about leaving that oil in the ground and seeking renewable energy sources?

    • Dale096

      Hear, Hear!!  Leave this filthy method out of the energy equation altogether. The extraction of this oil uses and pollutes unfathomable amounts of water and destroys vast tracts of Boreal forests.   Invest in alternatives, leave fossil fuels in the history books.

    • ironman2

      Like what? Nuclear is the only other scaleable option and Fukashima exposed its flaws.  Wind and solar are cups of water when we need a river and they are way to capitally intensive even if they were scaleable.  While I agree with your sediment , if it were easy it would be done.  We all love to bash the oil /  power companies as we subsist off of them.  

  • Trenalg

    Don’t put it anywhere.  Build more means of public transportation, more walking and bike paths, more golf carts, cars using alternate fuels, more wind farms.  Replace golf courses with wildlife habitats.  Enforce regulations on polluting industries, immediately, holding them to the highest clean standards available, immediately.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/7RVANKALKIE3MXCWNVILUR5GZQ Max JD

      Amen! Unfortunately, the people in power want to drive gas-guzzlers to the golf course, and laugh at people who think the future of the planet is more important than instant gratification.

  • http://twitter.com/iveyr Bob Ivey

    We need to get the idea of no pipeline or at least a new refinery closer to the source to our representatives and the president ASAP. Send letters and emails NOW!

  • Anonymous

    The real Avatar is this.  Why should the United States provide the urethra for a Canadian environmental terrorist operation. The documentary Tipping Point ‘the age of the oil sands’ is mandatory viewing for anyone truly concerned with this subject. Canada and the United States should consider leading in the Kyoto Protocal.

  • James W. Crissman

    “…some environmental groups say it would increase our dependence on fossil fuels.”???
    _____________
    By some environmental groups, do you mean everybody who has been paying attention to the data on global warming? Everybody should be screaming about this! An oil spill in the Nebraska  Sand Hills would be bad, but not nearly as bad as the hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 that we will purposely but mindlessly spill into the thin layer of atmosphere that allows us to live on earth.

    As the atmosphere approaches 400 ppm CO2, arguments about where to route this pipeline are just debates concerning the arrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic.  Building the Keystone pipeline, linking the world’s richest markets to the world’s dirtiest oil from the incredibly plentiful Canadian tar sands, means game-over for the fight to stop global warming. It really doesn’t matter where they route it.

    Happy New Year.

    • http://twitter.com/iveyr Bob Ivey

      You are right on. What you say has been confirmed by many notable researchers on the global warming issue.

      I believe that the reason for the pipeline is to make the oil easier to export, as you point out. So much for the excuse our “leaders” use to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. But isn’t Canadian oil foreign? Maybe less foreign.:)

  • StrideOrlov

    It is far cheaper and safer to move the crude oil to refineries that are located near where the refined products will be used than to refine the crude nearer to the oil wells and then try to transport the very volatile distilled products to distant markets. And remember, refineries are LOT more expensive to build and maintain than pipelines. So you get the added factor that it is cheaper to build a pipeline to move the crude to an existing refinery site than it is to build a whole new refinery.

    • http://twitter.com/iveyr Bob Ivey

      The refined products are not used in Texas, they are used all over the country and in most cases shipped by pipeline to terminals where it is transferred to trucks for local delivery. So how would a refinery in Nebraska be different than one in Texas except for access to the Gulf of Mexico for export?

      • StrideOrlov

        Actually the refined products ARE used mostly in Texas, supplying the metro areas for San Antonio, Houston, Austin and Dallas/FW, plus the artificial rubber plants in Pasadena (a huge consideration there).

        There are major refineries in 2/3 of the states of the U.S. The refineries in the western tip of Texas which supply the surrounding region of N.M., Ariz, southern CO and western Texas. The big ones in the Houston-Beaumont area, plus the ones in sourthern LA supply the south central region as I mentioned above. California has numerous major refineries which supply the West Coast. New Jersey supplies most of that region of the northern East Coast, while Alabama helps cover the SE region. Plus smaller, but still major, refineries all over the central states like MO, MI, IL and so on to fill the gaps.

        Transporting gasoline is dangerous and expensive. That is why refineries are spread all over the gasoline-crazed United States. But so much of the artificial rubber that fuel our industry, especially our tire manufacturers, comes from that one town outside of Houston (Pasadena) that the refineries there can never seem to get enough crude to keep up with demand.

  • Erma

    How silly to build a pipe line to ship oil from Canada to Texas. Surely a refinery closer to the source is more sensible. 

    • StrideOrlov

      No. It isn’t. Shipping gasoline 1400 miles is LOT more dangerous and expensive than shipping crude oil to a refinery 1700 miles away and then shipping the gasoline back 300 miles. That is one point against it. The second is that building and operating a refinery costs a lot more than building and operating a pipeline that runs to an existing refinery, especially in Canada where environmental regulations are more sensible, i.e. tighter.

  • Lovefreedomandpeace

    I think this Pipeline should be banned all together! We do NOT need more oil! tar sands oil is one of the dirtiest fuels in the world! We should spend that money on renewable energy like solar, wind, geothermal, hydraulic, and others, and on development of those resources! This is yet another attempt by moronic republicans to make them more money at the expense of nature. Our environment is far more important than some companies profits. I think the republicans should just shut up and let the president run the country. The constant attack on our environment MUST STOP, they don’t believe in global warming, they refuse to accept scientific proof and reason, and they have crippled our economy by hoarding 99% of the wealth, and they have destroyed every square inch nature that they have ever had control over. I hope the states involved and the president veto this ridiculous bill and it’s moronic proponents finally learn that environmental science is smarter than their stupid business ventures. I hate republicans and everyone else who cannot listen to reason, science, and common sense. If only a fraction  of the money invested in this project were to be spent on development of renewable resources  (natural gas is NOT renewable, nor is it an alternative to coal, and oil) then we could finally be free of our stupid dependence on fossil fuels. I have worked in renewable energy for 8 years now, and the only reason we can’t run the entire nation on renewable energy is because it gets almost no funding, and the big oil companies have done everything in their power to hinder progress in this field.  SHAME on OBAMA for signing this bill in the first place. And FUCK republicans for their continued stubbornness and ignorance

    • StrideOrlov

      Now this is a good point. Build a pipeline to move the crude to the refineries that have the demand for the oil is definitely smarter than building a refinery where there is no demand for the fuel. But weaning ourselves off the stupid oil altogether is by far the best solution of the three.

  • orecat

    Americans will not see a drop of this oil.  All the Arab and other foreign oil freighters are moored on the Texas coast, and just like our old growth trees;  all the oil will be shipped out and resold to us at a huge profit.  How about that for shoving that pipeline down your throats.  The tiny amount of jobs there really are, will go to Republicans.

  • Hodgieboys

    Missing from most coverage of this story is the fact that the Keystone pipeline already exists from Hardisty to Cushing, Ok.  One source of additional information is Andrew Nikiforuk’s book, TAR SANDS, dirty oil and the future of a continent.

  • Hodgieboys

    The environmental damage that has already occurred in northern Alberta from tar sands mining is jaw dropping. I think we are not aware of the amount of energy required for this process , the amount of land totally denuded, the vast amounts of water used, or the toxic waste lagoons which pose a secondary hazard. Canada is also proposing a pipeline across British Columbia west to the coast, this port posing additional environmental threats. 

  • Trafor

    Why not the pipeline:

    Less dependence on middle eastern and south american oil.  With the current problems at the strait of Hormuz and pirates Canadian oil just sounds better.

    Jobs from contractors, suppliers, support teams, local income for food and hospitality needed by workers not to mention maintenance teams later.

    Building better and stronger ties with a country that is already rebounding from the economic down turn, Canada.

    No there will not be a million jobs, but there WILL be thousands affected by the spending by both the companies and the workers.  

  • Andybu

    I wonder how many of the nay Sayers are driving cars or are using public transportation which is not hydrocarbon fuel driven?

    FYI, for those of you who have not noticed, there are hydrocarbons on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.   The term “Fossil Fuel” should only be used by the uneducated.

  • William

    Like it or not we need the oil.

  • iyoumeweus

    Even if an alternative route is chosen, an fair, open and honest environmental impact review must be performed under the guidance of the State Department, and this time it must be performed by an independent, unconnected to big oil and incorruptible group of environmentally knowledgeable people.   I actually would be willing to assist in such a review.      

  • Anonymous

    Cornell university performed a study if anybody would like to read it here is the link. http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/globallaborinstitute/research/upload/GLI_KeystoneXL_Reportpdf.pdf

  • Jon Kruse

    The problem is the new alternate Nebraska  route for the XL pipeline has not even been drawn.  Once drawn it has to be vetted by the Nebraska Department of Envrionmental Quallity, and by the US Department of State.  This project is not ”shovel ready” by any streach of the imagination.  It is going to take more than 60 days to meet these requirements that are required by law. I am a Nebraska landowner. This project is not in the national interest of the United States.  The pipeline is being constructed of steel made in China and the oil from the pipeline is to be sold to foreign countries..TransCanada doesn’t care about the envrionment of the United States or they would have avoided the Nebraska Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer in the first place. Landowners have been bullied into signing easement agreements under the threat of eminent domain before the Presidental  Permit has been determined. TransCanada lies about the number of jobs the pipeline will create. TransCanada does not deserve the Presidential  Permit. 

    • Anewcharliega

      TRANSCANADA LONG TERM JOBS

      Oil Spill Cleaner:
      Applicant must be willing to travel far and frequently and work in contact with extremely carcinogenic and toxic substances.  Also must wear a big yellow “space suit” so it looks like a high-tech operation even though it is only the unsuccessful application of oversized paper towels. The space suit also prevents the employee from talking to the press or public, thus keeping him safe from saying something that would get him fired.  Mediocre pay, no benefits, especially no health care.

      Public Relations Spokesperson:
      Applicant should look good on television, have a mellow voice and be able to pronounce big words correctly.  Must be able to lie convincingly to reassure the public that brown water is not only just as safe as the old-style clear stuff, but more desirable because it contains natural energy in the form of bitumen.  Good pay, flexible hours, great benefits (in this life, anyway.)

      “GOOD ECOLOGY IS GOOD ECONOMY”
      The Prairie Dog

  • Jon Kruse

    The problem is the new alternate Nebraska  route for the XL pipeline has not even been drawn.  Once drawn it has to be vetted by the Nebraska Department of Envrionmental Quallity, and by the US Department of State.  This project is not ”shovel ready” by any streach of the imagination.  It is going to take more than 60 days to meet these requirements that are required by law. I am a Nebraska landowner. This project is not in the national interest of the United States.  The pipeline is being constructed of steel made in China and the oil from the pipeline is to be sold to foreign countries..TransCanada doesn’t care about the envrionment of the United States or they would have avoided the Nebraska Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer in the first place. Landowners have been bullied into signing easement agreements under the threat of eminent domain before the Presidental  Permit has been determined. TransCanada lies about the number of jobs the pipeline will create. TransCanada does not deserve the Presidential  Permit.

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