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Widespread protests force move of Keystone pipeline

Published time: November 15, 2011 22:17
Edited time: November 16, 2011 02:17
American actress Daryl Hannah (C) sits in front of the White House in Washington, DC, August 30, 2011, during a protest against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

American actress Daryl Hannah (C) sits in front of the White House in Washington, DC, August 30, 2011, during a protest against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

The oil company behind a project that caused widespread outrage across the country has announced plans to reroute the $7-billion Keystone pipeline in the state of Nebraska.

Citing mass environmental concerns, the project has attracted massive opposition from advocates across America who have been arrested in droves for protesting the pipeline in Washington DC among other cities coast-to-coast.

The scheduled layout of the Keystone XL pipeline near the environmentally significant Sandhills area of Nebraska caused national controversy as advocates against the proposal complained of the impact the system would have on the underground waters supply that feeds nearly a dozen states within the country. The US State Department last week announced that the project in its previous state would be delayed while they assessed the impact of the pipeline on the environment, and now TransCanada, the company behind the project, says that they are considering alternative routes for the plan.

In a press release issued Monday from TransCanada, the company says that it supports pending state legislation that "will ensure a pipeline route will be developed in Nebraska that avoids the Sandhills.”

Alex Pourbaix, TransCanada's president for energy and oil pipelines, says around 40 miles of additional pipe will need to be laid and an extra pumping station established in order to accommodate a new route, the blueprints of which have not yet been solidified. Sen. Mike Flood, speaker of the Nebraska Legislature, however, believes that the next plan from TransCanada will plot the pipeline further east in Nebraska to avoid the Sandhills. Details on the final plan might be a while forthcoming though, as the Obama administration revealed only last week that it wouldn’t not offer a decision regarding an international permit for the pipeline until after the 2012 elections.

Todd Cone, a rancher from Nebraska, tells the Los Angeles Times that Sen. Flood stopped a special session in the Nebraska Capitol yesterday to announce that TransCanada had voluntarily made the decision to reroute the pipeline. Matt Boever, spokesman for the speaker, confirmed that the decision did come after the US State Department wrote them to voice their concerns over the plan and a proposal to relocate the pipeline elsewhere.

Earlier this year, Pourbaix said that it has always been a priority of the company to listen to their stakeholders in terms of decision-making. “We're confident that collaborating with the state of Nebraska will make this process much easier," he said, reports The Guardian.

There is no doubt, however, that pressure from environmental activists across the country had an impact on the decision process. A series of protests occurred across the United States in the month prior to TransCanada’s decision to rethink the route, with hundreds being arrested in front of the White House alone in a series of demonstrations. Earlier this month, a rally throughout Washington DC brought together thousands of protesters who picketed the pipeline.

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