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Wall optimistic after Nebraska approves Keystone XL pipeline

Approval comes days after Wall, U.S. governors send letter to President Obama
Reported by Karin Yeske
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The Keystone XL pipeline has cleared a major hurdle just days after the premier sent the president a letter urging him to approve the project.

In a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman has approved a new route for the project that avoids the state's environmentally sensitive Sandhills region.

Last week, Premier Brad Wall and 10 U.S. governors sent a letter to the Obama asking him to approve the project.

Wall is optimistic the pipeline will get U.S. approval now that Heineman is giving the say-so.

“If this pipeline is ever approved by the Obama administration, it means real things for Saskatchewan people. It means more resources we have in the treasury to invest in infrastructure, to invest in quality of life, to reduce taxes, to pay down debt,” he said.

If approved, one in seven barrels in the pipeline would be conventional oil. That oil would come from the Bakken formation which Saskatchewan shares with North Dakota and Montana. The Keystone XL pipeline project would increase Saskatchewan’s oil revenue by $300 million, said Wall.

"Saskatchewan taxpayers-- Saskatchewan people who own the oil resource-- receive as a price for that oil West Texas Intermediate. That's the price they get. What we would like to be able to get for our oil is the Brent Crude price. The difference between the two can range from $15 to $18 a barrel,” said Wall.

In January of last year, Obama rejected the idea of the pipeline but it is expected he will decide on it again early this year.

The letter penned by Wall and 10 U.S. governors did not include the signature of Heineman. The Nebraska governor was not approached to sign the letter because he was in the middle of an environmental review process to determine if the new route was appropriate. The letter sent by Wall suggested the pipeline would have big economic benefits on both sides of the border.

Over the weekend, the U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson told CTV that the letter would have little effect on the president’s decision to approve the project.

Wall expressed his disappointment in those remarks, adding he as a premier may not carry weight with Obama. However, he said signatures from governors whose states run along the proposed pipeline route have significance for the U.S. State Department.

“I’m disappointed in that response but hopeful that actually that might not be the case. That the White House would be interested in what 10 states have to say,” said Wall.

The pipeline has faced strong resistance in Nebraska from a coalition of landowners and environmental groups who claim it would contaminate the Ogallala aquifer, a massive groundwater supply.

Canadian pipeline developer TransCanada and some workers' unions say the project is safe and will create thousands of jobs.

The original route would have run the pipeline through a region of erodible, grass-covered sand dunes. The new route skirts that area.

Joe Oliver, Canada's Minister of Natural Resources, issued a statement on the issue.

"Our government welcomes the positive decision by the Nebraska Governor, Dave Heineman, to approve the rerouting of the Keystone XL pipeline. We support the Keystone XL project because it benefits jobs and the economic growth of both Canada and the United States. This important project is expected to create thousands of jobs and generate revenue to governments to support our critical social programs, including health care and education. Our desire is to work with the Obama Administration in achieving final approval. We believe Keystone XL will enhance the future economic prosperity and security of both Canada and the United States," he said in the statement.

Read the letter.


-with files from the Canadian Press

kyeske@rawlco.com

Follow on Twitter: @karinyeske