The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality opened a public forum this week on the latest route proposal by TransCanada for the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. Objections to a route through the sensitive Sand Hills ecosystem prompted a pipeline revision.
Roy Spalding, hydrochemist and water quality expert at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Aaron Hirsh, an engineering student, published a new route proposal in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Spalding told the Daily Nebraskan his route would move through northern parts of the state where groundwater is polluted from agricultural chemicals.
Jane Kleeb, executive director of pipeline opponent Bold Nebraska, said TransCanada's latest route still technically crosses the Sand Hills area.
"This route is no better than the last," she said in a statement.
TransCanada says safety is a top consideration for its pipeline projects. In Michigan, a 2010 spill of tar sands oil, the type designated for Keystone XL, sparked concerns about pipeline integrity.
Spalding said his new route was meant as an alternative scenario for major projects apart from Keystone XL.
"It was basically to introduce a new approach to siting pipelines," he told the newspaper. "It was written not only for the XL pipeline but also for any future pipeline proposals that are going to carry liquid fuel."