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U.S. receives new TransCanada pipeline application

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department confirmed on Friday it has received a new application from TransCanada Corp for a pipeline to run from the U.S.-Canada border to Steele City, Nebraska.

The new application includes proposed new routes through the state of Nebraska, the State Department said. Such routes are presumably designed to skirt environmentally sensitive portions of Nebraska which helped sink the earlier Keystone XL pipeline application.

The fact that TransCanada has submitted a new application may help U.S. President Barack Obama blunt Republican criticism of his administration's rejection of the earlier pipeline, a decision Republicans say cost the economy thousands of jobs.

Separately, a senior U.S. State Department official declined comment on how long the new review - which will require both the assessment of environmental factors as well as whether the pipeline would be in the U.S. national interest - might take.

However, the State Department statement pointedly noted that last November the department estimated that the soonest it could complete a similar review for new routes through Nebraska for the prior Keystone XL pipeline was the first quarter of 2013.

Extrapolating from that estimate, the soonest the new review could be completed would be the third quarter of 2013.

"Under Executive Order 13337, it is the Department's responsibility to determine if granting a permit for the proposed pipeline is in the national interest," the State Department said.

"We will consider this new application on its merits," it added, saying it would weigh energy security, environmental, health, cultural, economic, and foreign policy factors in its review.

U.S. officials have previously said that they would be able to use some of the analysis done on the previous Keystone XL pipeline project in any new review, a fact which should help speed their consideration of the new pipeline application.

"Nebraska has stated that their own review of the new route will take six to nine months. Previously when we announced review of alternate routes through Nebraska this past fall, our best estimate on when we would complete the national interest determination was the first quarter of 2013," the State Department said in its statement.

"We will conduct our review efficiently, using existing analysis as appropriate," it added.

The department said it would begin by hiring an independent third-party contractor to assist it, including reviewing the existing Environmental Impact Statement from the prior Keystone XL pipeline review process and to identify and assist with new analysis.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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