The Obama administration deserves compliments for scheduling another public hearing in Nebraska on the environmental impact of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
It will give Nebraskans and others an opportunity to express themselves in person before a decision is made on whether to issue a permit for the pipeline. (The date, time and location of the hearing have not been set.)
The federal public hearing in Nebraska and a 45-day comment period will be one of the last opportunities for opponents to register their complaints and suggest changes in the project.
The dynamics of the debate on the pipeline have changed considerably since the first public hearing held by the State Department in Atkinson.
Since then, many of the concerns expressed by Nebraskans have been allayed by TransCanada’s decision to revise the pipeline route away from the state’s fragile Sandhills, where the water table often is close to the surface and re-vegetation sometimes is next to impossible after the porous, sandy soil has been disturbed.
The revised route has been studied by the state Department of Environmental Quality. Based on its report, which was the subject of several public hearings across the state last year, the risks of the revised route would be minimal. Damage would be limited to small areas.
To be sure, there remains a dwindling vocal minority of Nebraskans who oppose the pipeline. Like their colleagues elsewhere in the country, the remaining pipeline opponents oppose the use of fossil fuels in general. They contend the pipeline will present a significant threat to the climate.
But, as many have concluded, the effort to fight climate change by stopping the pipeline is misguided.
The new 2,000-page State Department report makes clear that rejecting the permit for the pipeline that will move oil from Canada to oil refiners in the Gulf will do little to decrease global emissions. Canada can and will, if the pipeline permit is rejected, sell the oil in other markets.
A properly designed, constructed and operated pipeline is an efficient way to transport crude oil that, according to the report, will do less harm to the environment than shipping it by truck or rail. It will bring economic benefit to Nebraska and the rest of the country.
The last federal public hearing in Nebraska is an important and necessary step of a process that has been fair and open. Nebraskans can be gratified that their voices were heard and that the revised pipeline project has been improved significantly from the initial proposal.