Lawmakers are a step away from approving a bill (LB1161) that would allow Nebraska to proceed with a $2 million study to find a route through for TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, abandoned his effort Thursday to make changes to the pipeline approval process after opponents said the changes should have a public hearing. The bill was tweaked, however, to require TransCanada to reimburse the state for the study. It also would require the state Department of Environmental Quality to have at least one public hearing before making a recommendation about a route, among other things.

The bill advanced from second-round debate and faces one more round of consideration.

The $7 billion, 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline would run from Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. It has become a political lightning rod in Washington, D.C., and in Lincoln, where state lawmakers met in special session in November and passed two major pipeline bills.

Reach Kevin O'Hanlon at (402) 473-2682 or kohanlon@journalstar.com.

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