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COLUMBUS — Nebraska Public Power District will restart work on a transmission project needed to supply electricity to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The utility’s board of directors voted unanimously Friday to begin planning and line routing for transmission structures that will serve the revised route for the pipeline.

Calgary-based pipeline developer TransCanada requested the action by NPPD and is calling for a June 30, 2015, completion date.

NPPD is required by state law to provide service for the Nebraska segment of the 1,700-mile pipeline, which will connect the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, with refineries in the Midwest and along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The state’s largest electric utility began work on the transmission project in 2009, but activity was halted in November 2011 when TransCanada was forced to find a route for the $7 billion pipeline that avoids the environmentally sensitive Sandhills area.

Gov. Dave Heineman approved an alternate route in January that moves the pipeline farther east, into portions of Boone, Nance and Polk counties, and significantly reduces the amount of electric infrastructure needed.

NPPD is now expected to build 19-24 miles of 115,000-volt transmission lines that supply power to three of the five pumping stations along the Nebraska portion of the pipeline route. The utility also plans to construct two new substations, expand a third and complete other upgrades as part of the approximately $17.8 million project.

NPPD’s wholesale customers — Cornhusker, Elkhorn Rural, Perennial and Norris public power districts and Niobrara Valley Electric Membership Corporation — will provide the electric service once the pipeline is operational.

The utility expects to begin the planning and routing process, which includes public input, by the end of this month and will eventually need to acquire easements for the transmission lines.

Construction won’t begin until TransCanada receives a permit to build the pipeline from the U.S. State Department.

NPPD can terminate the agreement with TransCanada and collect all costs associated with the pipeline work if a federal permit isn’t issued by the end of this year.

The pipeline developer must pay for the transmission project — including more than $11 million already spent by NPPD — even if the Keystone XL project is canceled or rejected by the State Department. A $43.37 million guaranty is included in the agreement approved last week.

TransCanada will have 10 years to reimburse NPPD for its expenses, including interest and administrative fees, if the project moves forward.



Tyler Ellyson is editor of The Columbus Telegram.

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