The controversial Keystone XL pipeline continued to be a lightning rod this week, drawing heavy interest for an issue that operator TransCanada said is not yet a concern.
An official with environmental group the Center for Biological Diversity told the Omaha World-Herald that a decision this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would delay the pipeline construction by up to a year.
TransCanada spokesman James Prescott, however, told me Thursday that it is far too early to know whether the government ruling will affect the project.
“Whatever the law is, we'll comply with it. But it's premature at this point to claim that this project could be delayed in some fashion. We're just not there yet,” Prescott said.
The issue centers on the American Burying Beetle, an endangered insect that has been causing heartburn for oil and gas companies in Oklahoma for more than a decade.
Because the insect spends most of its time underground, activity such as drilling, pipeline laying, road building, mining and timber work all pose potential harm to the beetle.
To ensure the insect's safety, environmental regulations require companies to hire biologists and survey areas for the beetles before they dig in areas where the insects may be found. If any of the species are found in an area, biologists must trap or bait them away.
Previous rules allowed companies in some cases to begin trapping and moving the burying bugs before they had completed the federal permitting process.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week, however, reversed its rules after the Center for Biological Diversity sued.