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GOP Nebraska gov. asks Obama to stop tar sands pipeline

Daryl Hannah, oil pipeline
Actress Daryl Hannah is arrested by U.S. Park Police in front of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011, during a protest against the Keystone oil pipeline. AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

Nebraska's Republican Gov. Dave Heineman sent a letter today to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking them to deny a federal permit for a pipeline that would carry Canadian oil through his state, all the way to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Heineman wrote that he is opposed to TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline because its planned route lies directly over a critical aquifer.

"I am concerned that the proposed pipeline will potentially have detrimental effects on this valuable natural resource and Nebraska's economy," the governor wrote.

The proposed 1,700 mile underground oil pipeline, which would link the tar sands fields of northern Alberta to oil refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, has been in the works for nearly three years. The State Department has said it will decide whether to approve it this year.

The $7 billion project has been the subject of scrutiny this week, as thousands of demonstrators from across the country have descended on Washington to protest it. According to protest organizers, more than 700 people have been arrested in demonstrations at the White House, including actress Daryl Hannah. Opponents of the project have called the pipeline "the largest carbon bomb in North America."

Proponents of the pipeline -- including organized labor and the oil industry -- say it will increase America's domestic oil production with the help of a friendly ally and create 20,000 construction jobs in the process.

In his letter today, Heineman made clear he's not opposed to pipelines in general and pointed out his state already has hundreds.

The State Department on Friday released its final environmental impact statement on the pipeline, concluding it would have "no significant impact" on the environment and recommending that the project move forward. The report compared a potential spill in Nebraska's Sand Hills region to a 1979 spill in Minnesota, but Heineman said he disagreed with the results of the analysis.

"I believe that the pipeline should not cross a substantial portion of the Ogallala Aquifer," Heineman wrote. "Maintaining and protecting Nebraska's water supply is very important to me and the residents of Nebraska. This resource is the lifeblood of Nebraska's agriculture industry."

Clinton had said she was "inclined" to support the project, but she has taken a more measured stance as the debate has continued. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he hadn't spoken to the president about the hundreds of protesters that have been arrested outside of the White House.

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