WASHINGTON (Reuters) - TransCanada Corp has presented Nebraska officials with a report on alternative routes for the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline that would avoid ecologically sensitive areas, the state environment office said on Thursday.
The agency will give feedback to TransCanada on the report concerning the line designed to carry oil sands crude from Canada to Texas. After that, the company can finalize a route it wants to have evaluated by Nebraska.
The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality said it will soon announce dates for public meetings to be held in the proposed route area.
President Barack Obama put the Keystone XL project on hold this year after Republicans in Congress tried to force him to approve the project.
Late last year the U.S. State Department delayed a decision on the line until 2013, well after the November 6 presidential election, saying new routes needed to be studied to avoid fragile ecological lands in the Sand Hills of Nebraska.
Environmental groups, an important part of Obama's base, have opposed the line because it would cross an important aquifer and because they say the Canadian oil sands crude it would transport is more carbon-intensive than other crudes.
On Wednesday, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman signed a bill that gave the state environmental agency authority to review major oil pipeline projects proposed in the state. If Heineman approves the final route plan, he will send his decision to federal agencies involved in approval of the pipeline.
TransCanada will resubmit its application to the federal government "as soon as we can, but there's still work to do," said Shawn Howard, a company spokesman.
For the fourth time in two years, the U.S. House of Representatives voted this week in factor of speeding up the pipeline, but the White House said Obama would veto the bill if it made it to his desk.
(Reporting By Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio)