August 29, 2014

Fight against Keystone XL likely to continue even if pipeline wins approval

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline pledge to keep up the fight even if the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality approves a new route proposed by TransCanada.

Jane Kleeb with Bold Nebraska says one aspect over all others drives opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.

“The fight has been so fierce in our state, yes, because of water and, yes, because of the Sand Hills and, yes, because of endangered animals like the Whooping Crane,” Kleeb tells reporters in a conference call, “but, what is really driving this fight is the basic, fundamental and deep American value that our families have the right to own property without having a foreign company come in and take it away.”

The DEQ held a public hearing on the proposed new route in Albion Tuesday, hearing from both opponents and supporters of the $7 billion project. TransCanada proposes building an oil pipeline form western Canada’s tar sand fields to refineries located along the Gulf Coast in Texas, a total of 1,700 miles.

The federal State Department has held off making a recommendation that the pipeline receive a presidential permit to cross the border due to environmental concerns raised in Nebraska. A special session of the Unicameral held last summer reached an agreement with TransCanada to re-route the pipeline away from the Sand Hills.

The DEQ will eventually forward a recommendation to Gov. Dave Heineman who will either give his stamp of approval or reject the route. Once the state gives its approval, the federal government can then consider the entire project.

Supporters of the Keystone XL tout its economic benefits and claim it will have little, if any, negative impact on the environment.

Michael Whatley with Consumer Energy Alliance says it is past time to begin construction of Keystone XL.

“We’re looking at a project that’s going to bring in 700,000 barrels of discounted oil to U.S. markets every day, which is going to help with gas prices. It’s going to create 20,000 jobs and put $20 billion into the U.S. economy at a time when we really need jobs,” Whatley tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

Whatley says the alliance hopes for quick action from the DEQ and the governor on accepting TransCanada’s proposal for a new route through the state.

“We’re looking forward to having this whole pipeline route kinds of settled here in Nebraska so the State Department, the federal State Department, can take a look at the entirety of the project and get this thing built,” Whatley says.

But, it might not be settled even if approved.

Kleeb says landowners affected by the route gathered after a public hearing to consider options if the state gives the go-ahead.

“Essentially talked about civil disobedience and protecting their land at any costs. We know that several landowners are prepared for that. We are aware that national groups have various legal strategies as well,” according to Kleeb.

Kleeb says opponents are prepared to file numerous lawsuits to stop construction of Keystone XL.

Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this report.