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Citizen Letter to Speaker Flood

Editor’s Note: Cindy Myers lives near Stuart, Nebraska only a few miles from the proposed Keystone XL route. From day one she has been an outspoken critic of the pipeline because of the risk it poses to the water. She is a nurse who drinks unfiltered water every day from the Ogallala Aquifer and has thoroughly researched the dangers of a pipeline leak & the health risks. This is her response to TransCanada’s letter to Speaker Flood.

October 18, 2011

Senator Mike Flood,

Thank you for sharing the letter you received from TransCanada’s representative Alex Pourbaix. Please take into consideration my response.

I feel all Nebraskans need to be treated with respect and fairness because this is not just an issue affecting landowners directly in the path of the pipeline. We all drink the water. Protections for landowners along the route are important, but protection of all Nebraskans is a necessary and essential role of the Nebraska Legislature.

I found it interesting that Alex Pourbaix referred to the “Sandhills of eastern Nebraska”? How well does TransCanada really know our state?

It is not impossible for TransCanada to move the route, but it may be impossible for Nebraska to purify the aquifer once contaminated with the extremely toxic tar sands. TransCanada has time and money to change the route. Nebraskans absolutely can’t afford the loss of clean water.

How can we take a chance with TransCanada’s safety claims when their very first oil pipeline project has had 14 documented leaks in just over a year of operation? The leak at their pumping station site in North Dakota this last May shot a geyser of oil above the mature cottonwood trees, 60 feet in the air, and spewed 500 barrels of the toxic tar sands oil. If their shut-off valves are so effective, why did 500 barrels escape and why did this have to be reported by a local landowner? Several media outlets reported that the 60 foot geyser sprayed the oil into the surrounding fields. There really is no barrier that will be100% effective.

A recent tar sands spill of nearly a million gallons in Michigan left a portion of the Kalamazoo River closed for more than a year, with the cleanup tab running over $500 million and no certainty that the cleanup efforts underway will be successful. Has there been any process specifically defined by TransCanada as to how they plan to clean the toxins out of our ground water? We have no second chance, because if there is a leak it goes directly from the pipe to our ground water here in Holt County, where the pipe will be immersed in waters of the aquifer.

We can’t base such a magnanimous decision on an Environmental Impact Statement based on BIG OIL money influence and a major conflict of interest. US Senators Sanders, Leahy and Wyden recently wrote Hillary Clinton a letter addressing this concern. “We have little confidence in that assessment given the impact of past oil spills and the financial ties the contractor that prepared the environmental review has with TransCanada”

Please research EPA superfund sites in Nebraska, especially the well-known areas near Mead and Grand Island. From those researched and documented sites, we know that once contaminants are in the ground water they remain. They continue to flow eastward with the groundwater, resulting in contaminated wells in their path. The Lincoln well fields are in the path of poisons from the Mead site which have migrated miles in the groundwater. According to Dr. Stansbury, and according to Brad Vann, EPA environmental scientist, even though the oil itself might not go too far, the chemicals are water soluble and will flow with the ground water. We don’t know the full extent of the chemicals added to the tar sands oil. I have been told diluents make up 40% of the volume. Various water experts are unable to describe with certainty about the movement of tar sands oil in our aquifer, but more seriously, no knowledge of how fast the very toxic chemicals that can become water soluble will flow in water. So just taking into consideration 300 feet is absolutely not taking into consideration all the people who can be potentially affected from water that has migrated either in the ground water or surface water far beyond the 300 feet.

Regardless if we even have a response center sitting on top of the pipeline, leakage will go directly from the pipe to our groundwater, and once there, it is forever too late. The idea of testing the water will only tell us the water is not safe to drink and not solve the problem of preventing permanent water contamination.

Senator Bill Avery wrote me: “…the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that just a teaspoon of tar sands oil could pollute a swimming pool the size of Memorial Stadium beyond current drinking water standards.”

This graphic analogy truly brings into perspective how poisonous tar sands oil is. If we need to stop a teaspoon of tar sands oil from getting into our water, I think the only satisfactory option is not allowing this toxic mix of chemicals anywhere near our water supply.

TransCanada states rerouting is just not acceptable to them. Nebraska cowering to TransCanada is not acceptable to me. What is our water worth? The additional time TransCanada declares they need for a rerouting process is a mere glimpse of time compared to the permanency of ground water contamination.

TransCanada has a deplorable safety record on Keystone I, their first oil pipeline in the US, and it has only been operating since last year, I think we need a much more exact science when it comes to the water we drink and water Nebraskans depend on for livestock and crops. How can we expect their promises to be enforced when Nebraska has no laws to protect us? Michigan residents found out that compensation for an oil spill is not easily forthcoming.

The only 100% process to ensure the safety of our water is to reroute Keystone XL, especially since the planned route crosses the most vulnerable area of the aquifer. We know from well studied sites like Mead and Grand Island that once contaminants are in the water, they don’t come out, but insidiously migrate with the groundwater flow eastward.

Alex Pourbaix, president of TransCanada Corp.’s energy and oil pipelines, says changing the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline route now would seriously jeopardize the project.

I SAY NOT CHANGING THE ROUTE NOW WOULD SERIOUSLY JEOPARDIZE THE FUTURE OF NEBRASKA!

I feel I am speaking for most Nebraskans in saying I absolutely do not accept this negotiation. A decision of this magnitude deserves thorough and fair discussion to include more research, more information and more people involvement.

Cindy Myers

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