By TENNILLE TRACY
WASHINGTON -- Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman approved Tuesday a new route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which has been held up for more than a year, in part because of objections to the pipeline in the state.
The approval by the governor, a Republican, is one of the last remaining hurdles the pipeline has to clear before getting a final permit from the Obama administration.
The other major development will come from the US State Department, which is working on a separate analysis of the pipeline's new route. The department is expected to release a draft of those findings in the coming days.
Canadian pipeline operator TransCanada first submitted an application for Keystone XL in 2008. It devised a new route through Nebraska in 2012, after landowners and lawmakers in the state said they wanted the pipeline to avoid an ecologically sensitive area known as the Sand Hills. The new route travels east of the Sand Hills region.
Heineman's approval for the pipeline was largely expected after Nebraska's Department of Environmental Quality determined earlier this month that the pipeline was mostly safe.
The Obama administration rejected a permit for the pipeline in early 2012, saying a congressionally mandated deadline for a decision made it difficult to conduct a thorough review of the state's concerns.
TransCanada applauded the Nebraska governor's approval, saying the pipeline expansion would help bring the increasing amount of oil being produced in North America to the US Gulf Coast refining hub.
"The need for Keystone XL continues to grow stronger as North American oil production increases and having the right infrastructure in place is critical to meet the goal of reducing dependence on foreign oil," TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said in a statement.
The pipeline, which would extend from Alberta to Steele City, Neb., continues to face strong opposition from national environmental groups. They say the pipeline will contribute to global warming by bolstering extraction of Canadian oil sands, which emit more greenhouse gases during production than other types of oil.
Dow Jones Newswires