The American Petroleum Institute, the leading oil industry trade group, renewed its call Thursday for President Barack Obama to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, now that a route change has been proposed.
The new route will avoid Nebraska's environmentally sensitive Sand Hills, where environmentalists say any spilled oil will tarnish a vast underground water supply. The region was one of the major flashpoints between environmentalists and those favoring of the project.
The detour will add another 100 miles to the 1,700-mile pipeline that will run from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, through the pipeline hub of Cushing, Okla., to Texas Gulf Coast refineries, reported the Associated Press.
The project has been contentious, and has divided Washington lawmakers, pitched Republicans against Democrats, the House against the Senate, as well as environmentalists against industry proponents, as the White House tries balancing the country's energy needs with environmental stewardship.
After months of inaction, however, TransCanda's project has made huge gains this week, and the API's call to action comes after several key votes.
On Wednesday, the House passed its fifth attempt at greenlighting the project under no additional conditions. The Senate has yet to take up the issue, but has previously blocked similar measures.
On Tuesday, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman singed into law a bill that will allow the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to evaluate the route of every pipeline in the state, the Keystone XL among them.
Obama early in the year scuttled the pipeline project when he failed to approve the company's permit application, but on Feb. 27, the White House backed TransCanada's proposal to build the southern half, from Cushing to the Texas coast, as a separate project.
The White House, at the time, welcomed news the company was ready to resubmit its permit. Obama then said in March that he would fast-track the construction of the pipeline's southern portion as an independent endeavor, unrelated to the larger northern portion, which has to cross the U.S.-Canada border.
Obama, has said, however, he will veto the measure the House passed Wednesday.
The API said the White House should stop offering excuses, and approve the pipeline.
The stars are aligning for America's energy future, and President Obama should make the right choice now and approve the entire Keystone XL pipeline, said API President and CEO Jack Gerard. The president's concerns about the sensitive Sand Hills area of Nebraska have been addressed. There are no more excuses. Mr. President, let's get this energy and job creating project started now.
Brian McManus, a spokesman for the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, said the pipeline's new route has as much as nine months of public comment and review to go before it gets a final decision from Heineman. The proposal is currently open to public comment.