Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Keystone XL: Which Way Around?

With Transcanada suddenly willing to redirect parts of Keystone XL, the question arises: where exactly in Nebraska would the rerouted pipeline go?  In fact Cardno Entrix, the controversial environmental contractor that assessed the line, had already considered alternatives to the "as filed" route, including in the Sand Hills area.  From their "Keystone Pipeline Project – Mainline Pipeline Route Alternatives", here's a map of the affected area of Nebraska showing the originally proposed and possible alternative line:
(Note: it should look better when clicked upon)
Now, what's interesting here is that, according to the Cardno Entrix Doc:

Keystone has examined the environmental and project operational effects of each of these route and pump station alternatives, and recommends that the Department of State (DOS) adopt these alternatives as a component of an Agency Preferred Alternative for the Environmental Impact Statement.

So, several years back, the folks behind Keystone  recommended moving the line away from Sand Hills.  However, the DOS would not bite.  From their Executive Summary to their Environmental Impact Statement (emphasis mine):

Although the other four route alternatives could have been eliminated based on consideration of economical and technical practicability and feasibility without further evaluation, they were nonetheless examined further with an emphasis on groundwater resources. The I-90 Corridor and Keystone Corridor alternatives would all avoid the Sand Hills; however, they would not avoid the Northern High Plains Aquifer system, and they would not avoid areas of shallow groundwater. Instead, these routes would shift risks to other areas of the Northern High Plains Aquifer system and to other aquifers.

In addition, these alternatives would be longer than the proposed route and would disturb more land and cross more water bodies than the proposed route.

DOS finally concluded:

DOS did not find any of the major alternatives to be preferable to the proposed Project for the reasons presented in the final EIS and summarized above. As a result, the agency-preferred alternative is the proposed Project route with the variations and minor route realignments described in the EIS...

From an environmental stand-point, then, the re-routed line may be less safe than the original, and people will still have to deal with any fallout.  Just not the same people.

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