Photo by National Public Radio
Photo by Catherine Mann, InsideClimate News
A depth-to-water map of eastern Nebraska, showing the original route (orange), the reroute released in April (yellow), the newest route released Sept. 5 (detours in red) and the Sandhills (in green). Lighter areas have a high water table (depth to water 0 to 50 feet) and are more vulnerable to the impacts of an oil spill. Darker areas have a depth to water of over 50 feet.
TransCanada applied Thursday for a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska.The Nebraska Public Service Commission announced the receipt of TransCanada’s application, as was expected following the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
The commission now has 210 days to approve or deny the application. That deadline can be extended up to five months for just cause, PSC spokeswoman Deb Collins said.
To address the question of eminent domain, TransCanada has the burden to establish that the proposed route would serve the public interest, Collins said in the announcement.
In addition, the commission will look at siting -- the route of the pipeline -- and evaluate whether TransCanada has demonstrated compliance with state statutes, rules, regulations and local ordinances, the announcement said.
On the other hand, safety components of the pipeline construction process will not be part of the PCS review.
The PCS said Nebraska state statute prohibits the evaluation of safety considerations per se, such as the design, installation, inspection, emergency plans and procedures, testing, construction, extension, operation, replacement, maintenance, and risk or impact of spills or leaks from the tar sands oil pipeline, the announcement said.
The underlying state statute for the process comes from the Major Oil Siting Act (Neb. Rev. Stat. §57-14-1 et seq.).
The commission will, however, evaluate evidence of the route’s impact upon natural resources, even though the safety of the construction process will not be examined, Collins said.
The commission will look at:
• An environmental impact study;
• A comprehensive soil permeability study;
• A distance-to-groundwater survey;
• Evidence regarding the impact of the pipeline on wildlife; and
• Evidence regarding the impact of the pipeline on plants located within and surrounding the proposed route;
• Evidence of methods to minimize or mitigate the potential impacts of the major oil pipeline to natural resources;
• Evidence regarding the economic and social impacts of the major oil pipeline, including estimates of state and local taxes paid by TransCanada along the route, and information regarding impact on employment in Nebraska;
• Whether any other utility corridor exists that could feasibly and beneficially be used for the route.
• The impact of the major oil pipeline on the orderly development of the area around the proposed route.
• The reports of other state agencies. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality has previously studied the route.
• The views of the governing bodies of the counties and municipalities in the areas around the proposed route.
Public comments will be taken at some point, but the dates and times have not yet been determined, Collins said. Any comments received will become part of the formal record of the proceedings.
Also, individuals with a substantial legal interest in the proceedings can file a motion seeking formal intervention. If granted, formal intervention gives the right to promulgate discovery, offer evidence including witness testimony, cross-examine witnesses of other parties and appeal the final decision of the commission, the announcement said.
Individuals may represent themselves; however, they may not represent businesses or family farms they own and/or operate, the announcement said. Duly authorized attorneys can represent individuals and groups in the proceeding.
Collins said public commenters are not parties and will not be able to engage in discovery, offer witnesses and evidence, or appeal.
“The commission is committed to building a comprehensive record,” PSC Executive Director Jeff Pursley said. “We will follow all aspects of the law as we fulfill the duties assigned to us by the Legislature.”
For more about the pipeline in Nebraska, see https://insideclimatenews.org/news/20121015/nebraska-keystone-xl-pipeline-route-transcanada-ogallala-aquifer-holt-county-groundwater-oil-sands-dilbit
For the company's views, see TransCanada.com