Rerouting Keystone pipeline not enough, critics say

Aquifer safe, but environmentalists say TransCanada's new route around Nebraska aquifer doesn't make the pipeline a good idea.

Photo of Keystone protest courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It's been a case of point-counterpoint this week as TransCanada agreed to reroute the proposed route for its controversial Keystone XL pipeline and environmentalists responded with a swift "not good enough."

The Canadian Press has the details of the latest on the debate.

WASHINGTON -- American environmentalists admit that TransCanada made a major concession by rerouting its proposed Keystone XL pipeline, but they insist they'll keep trying to prevent the controversial oilsands project from ever being built.

After months of refusing to map out a different route for the pipeline, Calgary-based TransCanada did a prompt about-face on Monday, offering to skirt the Sand Hills area of Nebraska -- home of a massive aquifer that provides drinking water to millions on the Great Plains.

The move, coming just four days after the U.S. State Department said it was deferring a decision on the pipeline pending another look at alternate routes, has hardly shut down a makeshift coalition of American environmental groups that have come together in passionate opposition to the Canadian project.

"We're very glad the Sand Hills are safe; now we just have the atmosphere of the entire planet to worry about,'' said Bill McKibben, a leading U.S. climate change specialist and one of the masterminds behind the environmental movement's opposition to Keystone.

For months, the American environmental movement held up the Ogallala aquifer as one of the primary reasons why U.S. President Barack Obama had to stop the $7-billion pipeline that aims to carry 700,000 barrels a day of oilsands crude through six American states to Gulf Coast refineries.

Obama himself raised concerns about the pipeline's route in a recent interview with a Nebraska radio station.

And two U.S. senators who have been among the project's most vocal critics -- Republican Mike Johanns and Democrat Ben Nelson -- quickly changed their tune Monday after TransCanada agreed to find a new route.

"It certainly appears to me common sense has prevailed,'' Johanns said in a statement late Monday.

"I'm optimistic this could be a pathway to responsible completion of the pipeline so we can begin transporting more energy from a friendly ally and decrease our dependence on countries which may not share our values.''

Rather than pack up their protest signs and go home, however, environmentalists are vowing to press on in their battle against the project -- and Alberta's oilsands.

"The president should know that if this pipeline proposal somehow re-emerges from the review process, we will use every tool at our disposal to keep it from ever being built,'' McKibben said last week in the aftermath of the State Department announcement.

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the international director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the aquifer was only one player in a vast cast of potential pipeline victims.

"It's a major concession from TransCanada, and a pretty big victory for the people of Nebraska, but the Sand Hills is just one piece of a much larger story in this pipeline,'' she said.

More in Canada

The joy of giving

Science is now providing the evidence for what we have long held to be true: that it is better to give than to receive.

Amazing photos of September in Vancouver

Take a look back at September captured through the lenses of our VO Flickr Pool contributors.

A young Iranian helps Syrian refugees adjust to Canada

A young Iranian, himself, new to Canada reaches out to help Syrian refugees settle here. But with the war in Syria, tensions between Iranians and Syrians are rising. How will he succeed?
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.