Amid intense, emotional public hearings on the Keystone XL pipeline, an executive of the company defends the project.
The State Department has concluded its two hearings in Nebraska. First, officials from Washington heard from supporters and opponents of the pipeline in Lincoln on Tuesday. Then, officials journeyed to the heart of the issue: the Sand Hills. Testimony was taken in Atkinson Thursday, a public hearing in the Sand Hills, over the Ogallala Aquifer.
TransCanada officials attended both hearings and assembled an array of supporters to back the project as a job creator that would provide the country much needed energy. They also strove to beat back charges that the route chosen risks despoiling the fragile environment of the Sand Hills and contaminating the drinking water that springs from the Ogallala.
TransCanada Keystone Pipelines Vice President Robert Jones told reporters that emotion has turned Nebraska against the oil pipeline.
“I think what we are seeing here is a lot media attention addressing the fears of contaminating the aquifer and contaminating drinking water,” Jones said.
Jones insisted the facts and science are on his side as well as experience. Jones said that other pipelines run over the aquifer and haven’t harmed it. He said oil wells have been drilled through the aquifer without upsetting the ecological balance.
“The safest and most environmentally correct way to build this pipeline is the route that was selected,” according to Jones.
Jones never wavered in that assertion during about 12 minutes of question and answer with reporters prior to the public hearing Tuesday in Lincoln. He acknowledged that changing the route would likely trigger another environmental impact study that would add cost and delay the project, but insisted that there is no reason to change the route, because the route chosen is the least environmentally harmful route.
The 36” pipeline will be constructed of extremely tough steel, according to Jones, which would burst even if it directly by the largest backhoe manufactured. He said new technology developed by the military allows TransCanada to detect leaks almost immediately and shut off the flow of oil in the pipeline until repairs are made. And oil is what the pipeline will carry, according to Jones, who emphasized that the pipeline will carry oil made from tar sands in western Canada or domestically derived oil from Montana or the Dakotas.
How confident is he of State Department approval?
“Obviously, I’m extremely optimistic, because that’s what my job is,” Jones stated.