Nebraska residents again pack a room and Nebraska residents again offer drastically different views of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Hundreds attended the third public meeting held by the Nebraska Public Service Commission on TransCanada’s application to cross the state and complete the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline. This time the setting was the Divots Conference Center in Norfolk.
Becky Van Housen, who farms in York and Polk Counties, told commissioners she worries about the impact on the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies ten wells on her farm.
“This proposed Keystone XL pipeline cannot be allowed to cross the Ogallala Aquifer,” Van Housen stated. “A spill to the Ogallala Aquifer would not only threaten the drinking water of millions of Americans, but threaten the livelihood of hundreds and thousands of farmers and ranchers.”
Opponents emphasized environmental concerns along with property rights, while supporters touted economic benefits.
Former Speaker of the Legislature and business owner Mike Flood of Norfolk says Keystone XL could benefit Nebraska.
“If we’re going to do business with a foreign country for imported oil, I choose Canada over Saudi Arabia, I choose Canada over the Middle East. I choose Canada, because when there’s conflict, the longest unguarded border in the world and our friends, we will have a partner and we do have a partner and that is maybe the most compelling to me,” according to Flood.
Keystone XL would cut across Helen Tandrup’s farm near Neligh. She staunchly opposes the pipeline.
“It is not in the public interest for a foreign corporation to use eminent domain for their corporate gain. It is not in the public interest for a foreign corporation to take total control of what happens on our citizen’s farms and ranches. It is not in the public interest to threaten the Ogallala Aquifer,” according to Tandrup.
Labor International Union of North America representative Jaron Kaminski of Omaha says the current Keystone oil pipeline in eastern Nebraska has been operating safely since 2009.
“That pipeline, the Keystone pipeline, has delivered over a billion barrels of oil and there’s not been one leak in the state of Nebraska,” Kaminski stated. “That shows you how good our workers here are in the state of Nebraska and how much they care about the environment and I ask you guys, I plead with you folks to approve this project. It’s time to finally make a decision.”
President Donald Trump has awarded TransCanada the presidential permit it needs to cross the border and build in the United States. President Barack Obama denied the permit, arguing the pipeline undercut America’s environmental leadership role.
Keystone XL is an $8 billion project which already operates from Oklahoma City to oil refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas. TransCanada has everything it needs to complete the northern portion of the project with the exception of an approved route through Nebraska.
If TransCanada receives approval to build in Nebraska, it can connect Keystone XL from western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska where it can then be connected to existing pipeline to Oklahoma City.
The Public Service Commission held similar meetings earlier this year in York and O’Neill. Formal public hearings are scheduled for August 7th through the 11th in Lincoln.
Paul Hughes, WJAG, contributed to this report.