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Keystone XL pipeline: Nebraska’s approval puts Obama in a bind

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Supporters of the Keystone XL say the pipeline would generate thousands of jobs and unprecedented construction and property-tax revenues in states that could certainly benefit. To such advocates, Heineman’s support now makes Obama’s approval a “no-brainer,” says Richard Dunbar, a commissioner of Phillips County in Montana, the proposed location of the pipeline’s first substation. Mr. Dunbar says the pipeline would generate about $5 million in annual property-tax revenues for his county.

“I was glad the governor stepped up and did it. I think it answers all of our concerns in Nebraska. I hope there’s no delay in the State Department,” Dunbar says.

The US State Department is involved in the environmental review because the pipeline crosses a federal border. The agency says its review of the project is likely to extend beyond the first quarter of the year.

As for Obama’s comment regarding sustainable energy, Dunbar acknowledges that “it’s not a thing you want to hear when you want a pipeline approved.” He adds, “I don’t think we can live on green energy, not yet anyway.”

Pressure is coming from some in Washington for Obama to approve the pipeline.

“Nebraska’s approval of a new Keystone XL pipeline route means there is no bureaucratic excuse, hurdle, or catch President Obama can use to delay this project any further. He and he alone stands in the way of tens of thousands of new jobs and energy security,” House Speaker John Boehner (R) said in a statement.

The pipeline extensions would cost about $5.3 billion to construct, TransCanada says. If approved, construction would start immediately, with operations set to begin by late 2014 or early 2015.

The current Keystone system carries crude from Hardisty, Alberta, to markets in Illinois and Oklahoma. The extensions – one connecting Alberta to Steele City, Neb., and a second connecting Cushing, Okla., to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast – would expand TransCanada’s distribution channels for heavy crude oil extracted from tar sands formations in Alberta.

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