A Dec. 5 public hearing on the proposed re-route of the Keystone XL Pipeline at the Boone County Fairgrounds in the central Nebraska town of Albion was unexpectedly packed with nearly 1,000 people who showed up to sound off on the project. The lone hearing was hosted by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality—the only opportunity for impacted residents to weigh in on the DEQ’s findings on TransCanada’s revised plan for an oil pipeline through the state on its way to Gulf Coast refineries. Oglala Lakota Nation vice president Tom Poor Bear was among those who expressed concerns about groundwater contamination from the project. TransCanada says it has altered the pipeline’s path through Nebraska to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills and some town water wells.
President Barack Obama in January rejected TransCanada’s original application for a federal permit to build the pipeline. Since then, TransCanada has split the project into two phases. The company started construction in August on the southern section of the pipeline between Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast—which doesn’t need presidential approval because it won’t cross an international border. However, on a visit to Cushing, Okla., in March, Obama pledged his support for the southern leg, and issued a press release saying he will “issue a specific memorandum in Cushing directing federal agencies to expedite the Cushing Pipeline”—presumably meaning the EPA, first and foremost. “The need for pipeline infrastructure is urgent because rising American oil production is outpacing the capacity of pipelines to deliver oil to refineries,” the statement said.
The DEQ officials said they will add public testimony from the hearing to their 600-page assessment before passing it on to Gov. Dave Heineman, who will decide whether to approve the new route. After Nebraska officials finish their process, the US State Department will review the project again before Obama has the final say.
Corey Goulet, vice president of the Keystone Pipeline Project, was among those on hand for the Albion hearing. He was backed up by organized contingents from Americans for Prosperity, the Consumer Energy Alliance, Nebraskans for Jobs and Energy Independence, and the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry. (AP, Dec. 5; Lincoln Journal-Star, KITV, Sioux City, Dec. 4; Politico, March 21)
A statement on the TransCanada website says:
TransCanada is fully committed to the construction of the 1,897-km (1,179-mile) Keystone XL Pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska. We will re-apply for a Presidential Permit and expect a new application to be processed in an expedited manner, making use of the exhaustive record compiled over the past three plus years of regulatory review to allow for an in-service date of 2015. TransCanada anticipates approval of the Presidential Permit application – which is required as the pipeline will cross the Canada/U.S. border – in the first quarter of 2013, after which construction will quickly begin.
TransCanada continues to believe in the value of Keystone XL due to the overwhelming support the project has received from American and Canadian producers and U.S. refiners who signed 17 to 18 year contracts to ship over hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day to meet the needs of American consumers.
Our subscriber in Nebraska, Margery Coffey, was on the scene in Albion, and writes:
Serious crowd. The cops were there. A couple of busloads of…guys, all over six foot and 300 lbs type guys. They were wearing “Yes Pipeline Jobs for America” bright orange t-shirts. Sort of the same color as prison garb. Organizers called it the Corporate Pep Club. The sleeze of the pro pipeline puppets oozing the corporate lies made me walk out of the hearing several times. I was very impressed with the Nebraska grandmother, typical farm-Christian-Republican type, testify, through clenched teeth, in that hearing that she was prepared to do anything to defeat the pipeline and no one in that place doubted for an instant that she was speaking the truth.
On Dec. 3, three people where arrested outside Tyler, Tex., after barricading themselves in a mile-long segment of pipe, successfully shutting down construction at a Keystone XL worksite for most of the day. The civil disobedience action drew a crowd of local supporters, including angry local landowners who say they’ve been bullied by TransCanada. The three activists were charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest. (EcoWatch, Dec. 3)