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Alternate route for controversial stretch of Keystone pipeline unveiled

Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Salon.com's Joan Walsh weigh in on the Keystone controversy.

The company behind the controversial pipeline that's become an environmental lightning rod -- not to mention a presidential campaign issue -- has unveiled its preferred alternative for a stretch that got bogged down in Nebraska and triggered an Obama administration review.

Unveiled on Thursday, the map of TransCanada's preferred alternative steers the new Keystone pipeline route well east of the sensitive Nebraska Sandhills region. Both Democrats and Republicans in the state had raised concerns about potential impacts by the pipeline to farms as well as water supplies in that area.

The U.S. State Department, which has federal jurisdiction because the pipeline comes from abroad, i.e. Canada, has held off approving the project because of those concerns.


Nebraska said it plans to hold public hearings and receive comments on the new proposal, which is now likely to get strong support in the state.

Click here for TransCanada's new proposal

TransCanada

TransCanada's preferred alternative is seen in green to the right of the brown area, which represents the Sandhills region. Its initial route, seen in blue, ran through the region.

At the national level, Republicans have accused President Barack Obama of trying to undermine the pipeline.

Last month Obama traveled to an existing stretch of the pipeline in Cushing, Okla., to show support for extending it farther south to Texas, where refineries would turn crude into oil and other petroleum products.

"I am directing my administration to cut through red tape, break through bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority," he said on March 22.

He also indicated he wasn't opposed to the Nebraska section as long as it passed an environmental review.

"To be extra careful that the construction of the pipeline in an area like that wouldn't put the health and safety of the American people at risk, our experts said that we needed a certain amount of time to review the project," he said.

The Keystone Pipeline is dominating the headlines recently, as some analysts say we're at the start of a new energy pipeline boom, reports CNBC's Bertha Coombs.

Environmentalists still oppose the overall project because it would carry a type of crude oil known as tar sands that they say is more damaging that traditional oil wells.

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