Around 135 people have their say about the Keystone XL oil pipeline during a public hearing held in York by the Nebraska Public Service Commission.
The PSC actually anticipated a bigger turnout. It has set up 500 chairs at the Holthus Convention Center. A little more than half were occupied during the hearing which lasted approximately 10 hours.
The PSC is considering TransCanada’s proposed route through Nebraska, the last piece of the puzzle the company needs to fall in place to complete the northern section of the pipeline which will carry crude derived from the oil sands of western Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas.
President Donald Trump reversed a decision by President Barack Obama and granted TransCanada the presidential permit the company needs to cross the border and complete the pipeline. Keystone XL is an $8 billion project. It already operates from Oklahoma City to the Gulf Coast. A route through Nebraska would complete the northern section to Steele City, Nebraska where it could be connected to exiting pipe to Oklahoma City.
President Obama rejected the permit application, stating that authorizing the pipeline would undermine the country’s credibility in the fight to reverse climate change.
Environmental concern dominated the testimony of detractors who worry a leak from Keystone XL could damage the Ogallala Aquifer. Some also claim TransCanada is untrustworthy in its dealing with Nebraska landowners. TransCanada has yet to reach easement agreements with about 10% of the landowners and could use eminent domain to get the property it needs to build in Nebraska.
Supporters contend the pipeline is part of the country’s work to become energy independent and that it would add jobs and spur the economy. Some also say it would bring needed tax revenue to cash-strapped rural counties.
TransCanada first proposed building Keystone XL in 2008. It is asking the PSC to approve a route through Nebraska approved in 2013 by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and then-Gov. Dave Heineman.
The PSC has scheduled formal hearings in August.