Iowa’s neighbor became the center of national attention on a key environmental issue Tuesday.
Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman signed approval for the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.. Nebraska is the final link in a pipeline that will connect Canada’s oil sands to refineries in Texas.
The newly approved route through Nebraska will avoid the state’s environmentally sensitive sandhills region, but will cut through an area containing an aquifer.
The project has faced opposition from landowners and environmental groups who say the pipeline would contaminate that massive groundwater supply.
Heineman said multiple factors went into his decision including energy independence, economic impact, and environmental impact and he saw positives in all three areas.
Final approval has to come from President Obama and the State Department because the pipeline crosses the border with Canada.
Republicans urged him to make the approval Tuesday. Supporters say laying the pipeline is safe, and will create thousands of jobs.
Opponents say the pipeline will have major environmental impacts and have been urging President Obama to reject the project for some time. They said approving the pipeline would go against the commitment President Obama made to climate change in his inaugural address just one day before.
When the final decision will be made is unclear, but the State Department has said they will work to review and make a decision sometime in the first quarter of 2013.