Keystone XL —- Many Downsides And Dangers

Midlands Voices: TransCanada pipeline has many downsides, dangers. Kleeb is executive director of BOLD Nebraska, which promotes clean energy alternatives and other causes. Hovorka is executive director of the Nebraska Wildlife Federation. Winston is a public policy advocate for the Nebraska Sierra Club. “We just worked for everything we had. … We rooted down in the same place” — Bernice Jamison, a longtime, 96-year-old Nebraska rancher and farmer. This is why we are working with everything we have to stop the TransCanada pipeline. Our work is about protecting our way of life. TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline would transmit a toxic product right through our state’s lifeblood, the Ogallala Aquifer, and right through the Sand Hills, one of America’s most unique wetland ecosystems. Nebraska is not an oil state for a reason. Agriculture is our state’s leading economic activity. We need clean water and healthy land in order to provide food for the world. The pipeline would risk our food source and risk the livelihoods of generations of Nebraskans — from the homesteaders to today’s farmers and ranchers. We want to see investments in American-made energy sources, which include wind, biofuels and efficiency programs. Allowing a foreign company to cross the most unique soil in our country, the Sand Hills, and the most precious natural resource in our state, the Ogallala Aquifer, is simply not worth the risk. It does nothing to get us closer to a goal we all share: Making America energy independent. Despite what TransCanada says in its expensive ad campaigns, the oil is not guaranteed for America. Nebraska ratepayers would likely subsidize new transmission lines for the pipeline. Only 12 percent of the short-term jobs would go to Nebraskans. TransCanada’s emergency response plans are inadequate for rural Nebraska, and the company has not been a “friendly neighbor” in negotiations with landowners. Experts support our concerns about the danger to the Ogallala Aquifer. In a report to the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee, Professor John Gates noted “the chances of oil reaching groundwater would be high in the event of an oil pipeline release in the Sand Hills.” The same report noted that “surface waters in the Sand Hills region, including rivers, wetlands and lakes, are extensively fed by groundwater.” This means that a leak into the aquifer might not be confined to the immediate area but could instead spread far and wide. The report highlights the lack of scientific data and the need for further study to determine the full impacts of tar sands oil spills. Tar sands oil is very different than traditional crude oil, bringing a whole new set of concerns and risks. It is strip-mined from oily sand and requires more water and energy than any other source of oil, making it more expensive to extract. Tar sands oil is also thick and must be combined with dangerous chemicals and high heat to turn it into liquid form so it can be pumped through a pipeline. When you have a spill, it is not just an oil spill. It’s a chemical spill. The tar sands mining process destroys millions of acres of forest that provide habitat for important species. This process hasalready caused thousands of bird deaths. Experts are concerned about the impact on the more than 300 bird species that breed in these forests and migrate through Nebraska. The mining threatens the primary nesting area of the whooping crane, one of the rarest birds in North America. We take great pride in protecting our land and resources. It is important to recall the harm caused by a spill last summer from a similar pipeline into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. TransCanada’s pipeline has the same potential to harm Nebraska rivers, including the Niobrara, Platte and Loup, as well as the rare Rainwater Basin wetlands. Additionally, findings from “anomalies” cited by the federal government on Trans- Canada’s current pipeline have not yet been released, leaving Nebraskans with many unanswered questions on the safety and quality of steel used. We believe the additional studies that Sens. Mike Johanns and Ben Nelson have requested, supported by 21 state senators, should be carried out before the State Department makes a decision on the pipeline. Basic state regulatory, liability and safety guidelines must be put in place, as set forth in legislation introduced by State Sens. Annette Dubas, Kate Sullivan, Tony Fulton and Ken Haar. We also need stronger eminent domain laws — ones that protect Nebraska landowners, not foreign companies. Without these safeguards in place, it would be irresponsible for the federal or state government to allow the pipeline to be built. Even with these safeguards, the pipeline is bad policy and would keep our nation on a course that continues our dependence on foreign oil. There is another path. Nebraskans can stop the Trans- Canada pipeline, embrace a clean energy future and protect our good life — one that leads America toward energy independence. ((30 JAN 2011))












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