Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman notified the Obama administration on Tuesday that he has approved the Keystone XL pipeline to be built in his state, which may make the project closer to getting approval. The State Department said it would consider Heineman's letter in deciding whether to approve the pipeline, but delayed that decision until March.
"Construction and operation of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, with the mitigation and commitments from Keystone would have minimal environmental impacts in Nebraska," Heineman wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Heineman's approval puts Obama and the State Department in a difficult political spot because Obama hadpreviously cited "Nebraska's concerns about the pipeline as a key obstacle to approving the pipeline." Obama focused on the environmental impact the pipeline would have allegedly had on Nebraska.
Now, those concerns seem to be off the table.
"We don't anticipate being able to conclude our own review before the end of the first quarter of this year,"said Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokesperson.
After Obama vowed to fight "climate change" in his inaugural address, environmental groups were emboldened and urged the Obama administration to reject what they said was a "dangerous" pipeline.
According to the Nebraska governor, the construction of the pipeline would bring the state $418 million in economic benefits. Unions also support the project.
White House spokesperson Jay Carney said, "I don't want to get ahead of the process," when he was asked to comment about Heineman's letter.
While the White House and the State Department must approve the pipeline, a Nebraska state court has also challenged the authority Heineman cited to approve the construction.
Regardless, American Petroleum Institute Executive Vice President Marty Durbin said "another major hurdle has been cleared."
"With the approval from Nebraska in hand, the president can be confident that the remaining environmental concerns have been addressed," Durbin said.