The U.S. State Department held a public hearing over the course of eight hours on Thursday in Grand Island to take comments on an environmental impact study of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.
More than 1,000 people attended the hearing, which was held in two parts, running from noon to 3:30 and from 4 to 8 in the evening at the Heartland Events Center.
Among the speakers: Randy Thompson, a familiar face in the Keystone XL fight, a rancher from Morril, Nebraska, who says the pipeline’s opponents will not apologize for defending their land.
“I see no provision in the Constitution that says these individual property rights are only yours until a big corporation wants to take them away from you,” Thompson says. “Perhaps the apology should be coming from TransCanada for the way they have treated Nebraska and American landowners in general.”
John Kerekes, the central region director American Petroleum, urged the state department to move forward on the Keystone XL.
“It’s abundantly clear if the project is not built, economic and market conditions exist that alternatives will continue,” Kerekes says. “We believe the project is in our national interest. We believe the project should be approved. It will create jobs. It will bolster economic growth. It will provide economic security.”
Danny Hendrix, the business manager of pipeline workers, spoke on behalf the union workers who are sitting ready to start construction.
“Canada is going to continue to mine the Tar Sands, there’s no doubt about that,” Hendrix says. “That’s a fact. They’re going to find a way to transport it. That’s a fact. The best way to transport it is in a pipeline. The safest way to transport it is in a pipeline. That’s a fact.”
Opponents argue the pipeline, which would carry 800,000 barrels of oil daily, would threaten the region’s water supply if it ruptured.
Burton Fischer, a geologist with a specialty in hydrogeology, discussed what would happen if the tar sands oil leaked from the pipeline.
“This oil has a density less than water so it will float on water and can’t penetrate the groundwater table,” Fischer says. “The oil itself is also relatively viscous. When it chills it becomes more viscous and hence, even more immoble.”
The State Department says the meeting was a “listening session.” Comments were recorded and will be taken into consideration in preparing the final version of the environmental impact study.
By Tyson Havranek, KHAS, Hastings