COLUMBUS, Neb. — A Nebraska utility says the new route for a proposed oil pipeline that would carry Canadian crude oil through the state will delay work on electric transmission lines for the pipeline.
Nebraska Public Power District officials said they won’t be able to build the transmission lines by the deadline TransCanada set for the end of 2014.
Nebraska Public’s Chief Operating Officer Tom Kent said there’s no way the transmission lines will be ready by 2015, the Columbus Telegram reported.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he said.
TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline will carry Canadian crude to the Gulf Coast if it can win President Barack Obama’s approval. The proposed $7 billion pipeline would cross Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. TransCanada also has proposed connecting it to the Bakken oil field in Montana and North Dakota.
The southern section of the pipeline between Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast is already under construction, but TransCanada needs a presidential permit for the northern section because the pipeline crossed the U.S.-Canadian border.
TransCanada altered the pipeline’s proposed path through Nebraska last year to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region and a couple towns’ drinking water wells. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman recently signed off on the new route.
That new route forces the utility to redo design and planning work for all the areas where the pipeline route changed. Officials estimated that could take 12 to 24 months to complete.
The utility expects to spend $44 million on the transmission lines, but TransCanada will have to reimburse the utility regardless of whether the pipeline is ultimately built.
Environmentalists oppose the project because they worry the pipeline could contaminate groundwater reserves and threaten ecologically sensitive areas in Nebraska and other states along its 1,700-mile path.
Thousands of people attended a protest in Washington, D.C., on Sunday to urge Obama to reject the pipeline. The crowds marched from the National Mall to the White House.
Pipeline backers say the project will create thousands of jobs both in the construction of the pipeline and at refineries. Opponents say the pipeline won’t create nearly as many jobs as TransCanada has projected.
Project supporters also say the project would give the United States a steady source of oil from a friendly neighboring country.