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Published December 12, 2011, 04:22 PM

Nebraska Gov. Supports Efforts to Speed Up Keystone XL Pipeline

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Gov. Dave Heineman said Monday that he supports efforts to accelerate federal approval of a controversial crude oil pipeline through Nebraska.

By: Grant Schulte, Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Gov. Dave Heineman said Monday that he supports efforts to accelerate federal approval of a controversial crude oil pipeline through Nebraska.

The Republican governor told reporters in a conference call that he'd like to see the Keystone XL project move forward as soon as state officials agree to a new, acceptable route in Nebraska.

Pipeline developer TransCanada agreed to divert the 1,700-mile project away from the sensitive Nebraska Sandhills after Heineman called a special session aimed at the Keystone XL. The project will face a state environmental review before Heineman makes a recommendation to the U.S. State Department, which must approve or deny a federal permit.

"I certainly support expediting everything we're doing with the Keystone XL project," Heineman said Monday, noting that the state has already hired HDR Engineering of Omaha to study alternate routes.

Environmentalists say the Canada-to-Texas pipeline still threatens the state's water and wildlife, and dispute claims that it will create thousands of jobs or reduce U.S. dependence on oil from hostile nations.

The Keystone XL project gained international attention as environmentalists and some landowners pressured the Obama administration to halt the pipeline.

The U.S. State Department has said it will delay a decision until 2013, after the presidential election, but congressional Republicans are attempting to force an earlier decision. One provision in a bill to extend the payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits would force the State Department to rule on the project before the election.

The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality announced last week that Pat Rice, who oversees water quality, will assume the lead role in the state review. State environmental officials have said the review will take an estimated six to nine months.

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