Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
Over recent months, our state has continued an ongoing conversation and discussion about the Keystone XL Pipeline, currently planned to avoid the environmentally sensitive Nebraska Sandhills. As you can imagine, Nebraskans have important opinions on this issue, and I appreciate Nebraskans willingness to share their opinions with me. Today, I would like to provide you an update on the current evaluation process of the new route.
Nebraska's evaluation of the Keystone XL Pipeline is under way, and the public's involvement continues to be a key component in this process. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality has been directed to conduct a review of that portion of the route through Nebraska that TransCanada had changed from its previous application. The reason for this route alteration is to avoid the Sandhills region of the state.
The Department of Environmental Quality has been given statutory direction to conduct an effective and timely evaluation of the route through Nebraska. The agency has formed an internal team of experts and hired a Nebraska-based engineering company to help conduct the review.
Communication is important, and the state is making a sincere effort to both inform the public about what is being planned, and to listen to your thoughts and ideas. An important first step in this communication process was made when the Department of Environmental Quality conducted four information sessions last month in O'Neill, Neligh, Albion and Central City.
These information sessions provided an opportunity for Nebraskans to meet with the state, discuss their questions, and view detailed maps showing the proposed location of TransCanada's proposed route corridor. The public response was exceptional, with over 700 people coming to the meetings to talk with the Department of Environmental Quality staff at the four meetings.
However, this is just the beginning of the process. The public can continue to submit comments throughout the evaluation process by going to the Department of Environmental Quality's website at www.deq.ne.gov and by going to their pipeline project site, located at https://ecmp.nebraska.gov/deq-seis. At that site, Nebraskans can submit comments, review others' comments and view documents related to this project. Nebraskans can also view the agency's "online meeting," which provides a summary of the materials that were discussed at the May information sessions.
Nebraskans are welcome to submit comments by mail, call the comment line at 1-800-295-8912, or e-mail the agency at NDEQ.SEISpubliccomment@nebraska.gov.
The state's review process will be a thorough assessment that will follow the federal process for environmental impact statements. In fact, the Department of Environmental Quality has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of State that further defines the state and federal roles in the pipeline review. The federal government indicates they will use Nebraska's information in their overall pipeline assessment, and will work with the state to avoid duplicating efforts.
After the Department of Environmental Quality drafts an evaluation report, they will announce a public hearing, where there will be an opportunity to comment on the agency's draft findings. Following the completion of the environmental impact statement, the Department of Environmental Quality will finalize the report and send it to me to approve or disapprove the route. This process is likely to take 6 to 10 months to complete.
In order for this project to become a reality, it must meet two Nebraska tests. First, the proposed route should stay out of the Sandhills, as has been defined by state and federal agencies. Second, TransCanada must complete the state's evaluation process. This evaluation process will be done thoroughly, objectively, and with continued public input and involvement.
The ultimate decision to approve or disapprove the Keystone XL Pipeline will be made by the President of the United States in 2013.