The Administration and the State Department announced this afternoon that the decision on whether or not to permit TransCanada’s risky Keystone XL pipeline is delayed until a new Environmental Impact Statement is done on alternative routes. The delay is expected to last until early 2013. The Sandhills and Ogallala Aquifer are too important to our state and the President has recognized the economic and health risks of the current route. Nebraskans were quick to praise the President’s administration and challenge the Nebraska Unicameral to continue the work of passing oil pipeline regulations in the current special session.

Randy Thompson is a landowner in the current path of the pipeline who has become something of a Nebraska folks hero. Of the President’s announcement, Thompson said, “It’s really ironic that the folks in Washington, DC understand the gravity of the situation in Nebraska even when some of our own state legislators don’t seem to. Our future generations will thank the President and hopefully will thank our state senators if they do the job they were elected to do for citizens not big corporations.”

Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska reacted, “President Obama is making the right and tough decision for our land and water. The announcement contradicts those in Nebraska that say it’s too late to put regulations in place.” Kleeb continued, “Now, more than ever, the Legislature needs to take action on behalf of the citizens of Nebraska. They have run out of excuses.”

President the Nebraska Farmers Union John Hansen said, “This President’s delay provides the Legislature with a green light to get caught up with other states who have already claimed their state authorities for oil pipeline routing and siting. Nebraska must use this welcome window of opportunity to claim its routing and siting authority so that the interests of our water, soil, and especially our landowners can be protected. We do not want our state to continue to be dependent on either the political whims of the State Department or the selfish economic interests of oil pipeline companies.”

The Nebraska Sierra Club applauded President Obama for taking Nebraska’s unique Sandhills and vast and vulnerable Ogallala aquifer into consideration in calling for additional environmental review. “However, the Nebraska Legislature still needs to exercise its lawful authority to protect its resources and economic interests in the special session,” said Ken Winston, Nebraska Sierra Club policy advocate. “We cannot rely on the federal government to protect our land and water.”

Ken Haar, a Nebraska state senator who has led the way on pipeline regulations said, “We came here for a purpose, the citizens of Nebraska drove to Lincoln and spent hours and days sitting in hearings before the legislature stating their positions on the issues. The need for a siting authority has not been relinquished. Let’s stay here and finish the job we started. “

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Other statements on the pipeline:

State Department release on delay of decision

Statement by the President on the State Department’s Keystone XL Pipeline Announcement: I support the State Department’s announcement today regarding the need to seek additional information about the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal.  Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood.  The final decision should be guided by an open, transparent process that is informed by the best available science and the voices of the American people.  At the same time, my administration will build on the unprecedented progress we’ve made towards strengthening our nation’s energy security, from responsibly expanding domestic oil and gas production to nearly doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, to continued progress in the development of a clean energy economy.

Robert Redford, who is on the NRDC board, weighed in: “This is American democracy at its best: a President who listens to the voice of the people and shows the courage to do what’s right for the country. Thank you, Mr. President, for standing up to Big Oil. Thank you for standing up for us all.”