It’s been a good week for environmental advocates.
A day after the Delaware River Basin Commission postponed a vote on new hydraulic fracturing regulations, Nebraska lawmakers approved a bill rerouting the controversial Keystone XL pipeline away from environmentally sensitive portions of the state.
The Keystone pipeline and fracking in the Delaware River Basin have been two of the most high-profile environmental issues this year. In Nebraska, the debate over the pipeline’s route centered around familiar issues: opponents worried about the possible pollution of a valuable water source, while proponents argued it was physically impossible for oil to breach the state’s Ogallala Aquifer.
The legislation comes about a week after the Obama Administration delayed final federal approval on the pipeline until after next year’s elections.
A special legislative session that began with tumult and trepidation ended on a comparatively tranquil note Tuesday as Nebraska lawmakers approved two oil pipeline bills in response to TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL project.
Lawmakers passed the Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act (LB1), by Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton, which will give authority for siting future oil pipelines to the Nebraska Public Service Commission, which oversees telecommunications, mass transit and utilities.
They also passed a bill (LB4) by Sen. Chris Langemeier of Schuyler as part of a deal struck by Speaker Mike Flood of Norfolk with TransCanada to route the Keystone XL away from Nebraska’s environmentally fragile Sandhills.
The $7 billion, 1,700-mile Keystone XL will run from the oil sands of Alberta to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. The project was met by fierce resistance from landowners and advocacy groups worried about the effects of an oil spill in the Sandhills region, where water tables — including those of the massive Ogallala Aquifer — are particularly high in many places.