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The Keystone XL Pipeline project took a significant step forward this week with an environmental impact statement that reduces if not removes some of the concerns regarding environmental safety.

Nebraskans have watched this process unfold with a vested interest for nearly five years now. It’s been an emotional debate, but at this point it’s becoming clear that there are far more pros than cons regarding the proposed $7 billion project.

Though the State Department report stopped short of endorsing the pipeline, it downplayed the environmental risks and stated that oil sands extraction will likely proceed at the same rate with or without the project.

Not surprisingly, lobbyists on both sides of the issue are citing points in the report which they claim make their arguments stronger. Bold Nebraska and other environmental groups will oppose this project on principle, regardless of what new facts or information are presented. That’s not going to change.

As we have said in the past, protecting the Ogallala Aquifer should be the trump card in this debate, as far as Nebraska is concerned. As many benefits as there are regarding job creation and a move toward energy independence, the thought of a spill polluting our precious underground water supply is simply unimaginable.

For that reason, we opposed the project’s initial path, and applauded lawmakers in 2011 when they were successful in convincing TransCanada to move the route further east. That was a game-changer.

Since that time, the political bantering has continued to rage in what has become a symbol of political debate over climate change. This week’s report focused specifically on the TransCanada pipeline, and after a detailed review concluded that it is not a major environmental risk.

It’s time now for a decision. This week’s report will be followed by a 30-day comment period, but it is possible that a final decision could come by early summer. President Obama claims this is not a political issue, but those words will ring hollow now if he doesn’t do his job and push for a go or no-go decision.

Based on what we learned this week in the State Department report, the Keystone XL Pipeline should proceed as planned.

Kurt Johnson

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