SEATTLE — Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman says he will urge President Barack Obama to reverse his decision denying a permit for TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline and let construction begin in segments.
Heineman, a Republican and chairman of the National Governors Association, said this approach would give his state time to conduct an environmental review without stalling the $7 billion project. He said in an interview Tuesday in Seattle that he will raise the issue with Obama next month during an NGA meeting in Washington.
“The president should — I call it a conditional yes — say, ‘Yes, TransCanada, if you’re willing to move forward and take a risk that Nebraska will get it done,’ which we will, ‘you go ahead and start building from our northern border and our southern border,”’ Heineman said.
Obama announced on Jan. 18 that he agreed with the State Department’s recommendation to deny TransCanada’s permit application because a deadline set by congressional Republicans prevented a full review of the pipeline’s health and environmental impact. His administration invited TransCanada to reapply, which the company said it would accept.
“I just want to suggest to the president that, let’s put American jobs first, let’s reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Heineman said. “And if this pipeline makes sense, which I think it does, and we’ve certainly had some indication from the president that’s where he wants to head, let’s make the decision now, not 10 months from now.”
White House spokesman Clark Stevens said the decision on Keystone XL reflected the “arbitrary deadline” set by Republicans for issuing a permit.
The denial of a permit “does not prejudge any future projects, and any new proposal will be subject to the important safety, economic and environmental assessments that must inform any final decision,” Stevens said Tuesday in an email.
The pipeline, when completed, would carry 700,000 barrels of crude a day from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. It would run through South Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, which support the plan.
The State Department must issue a permit for the pipeline to proceed because it would cross an international border.
“We want to have a conversation with the Department of State,” Heineman said. “Who can we do a memorandum of understanding with that would continue to allow us to move forward with that environmental impact statement?”
Heineman, who supports the project, sought changes to the proposed route that would steer the 1,661-mile pipeline away from the environmentally sensitive Ogallala Aquifer under the Sand Hills region. He called a special session of the state Legislature, which voted to conduct an environmental review of an alternate route.
The state will take “a timeout” from its review “to figure out how do we continue to move forward,” Heineman, 63, said during a break in an NGA meeting.
He said Calgary-based TransCanada had planned to propose an alternate route to Nebraska last week before Obama’s announcement and is willing to begin construction on the northern and southern portions of the pipeline.
“There are three states to go through to get to Nebraska on both ends, so we could have our process done,” Heineman said.