Gov. Dave Heineman Tuesday sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stating changes made by TransCanada to the proposed route for the crude-oil pipeline had satisfied the state's environmental concerns.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington Heineman's blessing was important, but the "State Department still has the reins" in terms of final approval of the changes.
"It was a process that followed the format that had been used in the past in terms of the State Department's role in approving these kinds of pipelines when they crossed international boundaries," Carney said. "One of the things that delayed, or postponed this process had to do with the opposition of the Nebraska governor and others in that state to the route that Keystone was proposed to take."
The Keystone XL project is aimed at transporting crude from western Canada's oil-sands producing region to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. The original permit application was denied by the Obama administration over concerns it put critical underground water supplies in Nebraska at risk. The denial and decision to postpone the review of the proposed route until after the November elections became a hot-button issue in the campaign with Republicans accusing the president of putting environmental concerns above the need for jobs and relief from rising gasoline prices.
Heineman said in his letter the pipeline builder, TransCanada, had offered to shift the route away from the Sand Hills aquifer and be responsible for responding to any potential leaks along the pipeline.
In return, Nebraska will get an estimated $141 million in economic impact from jobs and property taxes, the letter said.
Despite the continuing review by Washington, TransCanada was optimistic following Heineman's statements.
"Today's approval of the Nebraska re-route by Gov. Heineman moves us one step closer to Americans receiving the benefits of Keystone XL -- the enhanced energy security it will provide and the thousands of jobs it will create," Russ Girling, TransCanada's president and chief executive officer, said in a written statement.