Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman said on Monday he will call a special session of the state legislature over TransCanada Corp.'s proposed $7 billion oil sands pipeline that would cross ecologically sensitive areas.
Heineman wants TransCanada to change the route of the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline away from Nebraska's Sand Hills region, which sits atop the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest sources of water for farms in the central United States. He does not oppose the pipeline outright.
"I believe Nebraskans are expecting our best efforts to determine if alternatives exist," Heineman said in a statement. He has urged President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deny a presidential permit for the line until the route is changed.
If Nebraska succeeds in changing the route for the pipeline, it could delay the project.
The session in Nebraska's only legislative chamber will determine whether the state can determine the siting of pipelines within its borders. It will start on November 1.
The pipeline would take oil sands crude from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries, and potentially to its ports for export.
Supporters say the line would provide thousands of jobs and increase oil imports from a friendly neighbor. Opponents say oil sands crude causes more greenhouse gas emissions and that the petroleum is more corrosive to pipelines than average crude oil.
Last week, Mike Flood, speaker of the state legislature, advised against a measure that would force TransCanada to move the right-of-way from the Sand Hills, saying such a move would unlikely hold up in court.
Heineman worked with Flood to set the starting date for the session.
TransCanada has said it is too late in the federal approval process to move the proposed path for the line. "The pipeline takes the safest route — physically and environmentally," said Shawn Howard, a spokesman for TransCanada.
The U.S. State Department hopes to decide whether to greenlight the 700,000-barrels-per-day or more pipeline by the end of this year.
(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Jones in Calgary; Editing by Dale Hudson and David Gregorio)