TransCanada surprise move has predictable results

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monday's surprise announcement that TransCanada will voluntarily shift the route of the Keystone XL pipeline was an early Christmas present for Nebraska legislators who are spending Thanksgiving week attempting to craft legislation to do just that.

While TransCanada doesn't expect to spend a lot of money rerouting the pipeline, which it expects will be only a 30-40-mile shift, it will lose a lot of money because of the delay in time. It will be at least several months into 2013 before a study of the new route is available. It isn't expected to route the pipeline next to the first Keystone pipeline, which runs east of the proposed Keystone XL route.

One thing TransCanada's move will do is make clear which pipeline opponents were opposed because of valid concern for the Ogallala aquifer, and which opponents are against the oil industry in general.

One of the latter is the Center of Biological Diversity, which vowed to go forward with a lawsuit to block the project.

Another thing the delay will do, as pipeline proponents have predicted, is push Canada toward selling more oil to other markets.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told President Obama over the weekend that Canada will step up its efforts to sell oil to Asia, as well as keep pressuring the United States to approve the pipeline.

In announcing the voluntary move by TransCanada, Speaker of the Legislator Mike Flood called for LB1, which would give the Public Service Commission authority to site pipelines, out of committee and onto the floor for debate. An amendment would put Nebraska taxpayers on the hook for a new environmental impact study of the new route.

LB4, already advanced to the full Legislature, would give the governor ultimate pipeline siting authority after consulting with a panel of experts and conducting public meetings about the proposed route.

Whatever the fate of the Keystone XL, it's important that the Legislature enact some sort of law, both to avoid public outcry over the next proposed pipeline route, and to give reassurances to the next pipeline company that wants to build across the state.

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