Questions linger on Keystone XL 

click to enlarge Mike Klink will appeal the dismissal of his whistleblower claim.
  • Mike Klink will appeal the dismissal of his whistleblower claim.
  • Submitted photo

The day before President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada's request to expand its Keystone pipeline system, a Hoosier engineer received word federal authorities dismissed his claim that he was terminated from the pipeline project for raising safety concerns.

The rejections are not deterring either company's or the whistleblower's plans to advance their respective agendas. For TransCanada this means completion of the pipeline. For Michael Klink, a 59-year-old civil engineer from Auburn, Ind., it means that the company will rectify his litany of safety concerns. And, if possible, that he could once again work in the field of pipeline inspection.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, if completed, will stretch more than 2,000 miles from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Obama's Jan. 18 rejection was based on the notion that officials need more time to evaluate the project's environmental impact. TransCanada officials said the company would reapply for the permit for its XL extension. And, in a statement issued after the permit denial, officials added, "Plans are already underway on a number of fronts to largely maintain the construction schedule of the project."

In short, TransCanada said it would continue to work with the State of Nebraska to reroute the pipeline around the Sand Hills, one of the largest and most ecologically diverse wetland ecosystems in the United States. When this process is complete, company spokesman Terry Cunha said the company would re-file for the permit.

"The rest of the route has already been reviewed and approved," Cunha said, adding that the company hopes that officials will be able to expedite the approval process by using the data collected during the past 40 months of project review.

The goal, he said, is to re-start construction by the first quarter of 2013. According to a statement issued by TransCanada President and Chief Executive Russ Girling, the company aims to have the pipeline in service by the end of 2014.

TransCanada's Keystone pipeline, known as Keystone Phase One, was finished in June 2010 and already carries tar sands oil across the border to refineries in Illinois. In February 2011, Keystone Phase Two was finished, which moves oil from Steele City, Neb. to Cushing, Okla.

It was during construction on the Phase One link of the pipeline that Klink raised questions about the structural integrity of the pipeline that, he claimed, led to retaliatory firing.

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