Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, in a Tuesday letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said he approved the reroute of the Keystone XL pipeline through his state. Heineman objected to earlier route plans that ran through the sensitive Sand Hills region.
The U.S. government has the ultimate say on the project because the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canadian border. It's designed to carry oil from Alberta to refineries along the southern U.S. coast.
U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement that backing the project should be a "simple choice."
"We can develop North American energy, create jobs, lessen dependency on OPEC countries, and enhance our long-term energy security," he said. "Or we can continue to block Keystone."
Marty Durbin, executive vice president for trade group American Petroleum Institute, said the potential economic gains from the pipeline are too great to ignore.
"With the approval from Nebraska in hand, the president can be confident that the remaining environmental concerns have been addressed," he said.
Heineman acknowledged part of the reroute would run through sensitive lands but any potential effects would be localized.
Jane Kleeb, director of Keystone XL opposition group Bold Nebraska, said some of the economic gains cited in support of the project are "biased and on very shaky ground."
Critics of the pipeline say tar sands oil, the type designated for the pipeline, carries too much environmental risk. A 2010 tar sands spill in Michigan was the costliest onshore incident of its kind.