For months, landowners, US Senators, advocates, state legislators and yes–oil executives–have all shared one thing in common: we have all been waiting for the Department of State to issue the “supplemental” draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.
On April 15th, the waiting was over, the report was issued and we are left with two things–one the report failed to actually study alternative routes and two our state leaders continue to fail to take action on changing the route and putting regulations in place to keep our land and water safe.
The Dept. of State, at the request of elected officials, other federal agencies, national groups and individuals in potentially impacted states requested the additional study because the first DEIS issued received the lowest grade possible from a fellow federal agency, the EPA. The EPA has lots more to say also about the risks of the TransCanada pipeline, you can read the EPA comments here.
Unfortunately, this new, supplemental DEIS gives lip service to the real concerns of the risky TransCanada pipeline. It’s kind of like Governor Heineman and the Unicameral giving all of us lip service about how they have no power to do anything about the Keystone XL (or any oil pipelines for that matter). And, we all know that is just not true. They do have a role and they are not taking action.
Senator Johanns and Senator Nelson both called for the State Department to study (not simply look on paper, but actually study) alternative routes–to get the pipeline out of the fragile and unique Sandhills.
Rep. Fortenberry sent a letter to Clinton saying “The Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer are unique resources that deserve a high level of protection.”
Rep. Terry requested (the now famous) Congressional Research Service Memo that proves state’s have a role to play in the route of the pipeline.
Rep. Smith has remained silent on the issue.
Landowners asked the Department of State to study the impacts tarsands oil–which has 16 times more spills than traditional, American crude oil pipelines because of the chemicals mixed with it, high pressure and other factors–will have on their land and water when a spill happens. Because even TransCanada admits, it’s not if a spill happens, it’s when. TransCanada’s first pipeline that cuts through the eastern part of our state already has 10 documented leaks, and parts of the pipe had to be dug up to be studied for “anomalies.”
The National Wildlife Federation hit the problem on the bulls-eye when they pointed out, “The Department of State’s analysis says that avoiding the Nebraska Sandhills isn’t an appropriate reason to consider alternative routes for the pipeline, apparently ignoring Senator Johanns who has said there could not be a worse route in the entire state of Nebraska and maybe the entire country.”
Since Nebraskans started speaking out on this issue more than a year ago, the impacts on the Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer remain a big concern. We’re frustrated that this concern is still not being addressed. The UNL Dept. of Ag Economics stated, “Considering the potential benefits and costs alluded to above (in their report), we do not support the project.”
Several UNL professors who study the Ogallala and Sandhills also share our concerns which are listed in the Natural Resources Interim Study report (and which the Natural Resources Committee has clealry failed to read since they have not advanced a single bill to address the concerns).
You see, the Keystone XL is not our grandparents’ (or even our parents’) oil pipeline because it’s not carrying traditional crude oil. TransCanada’s pipeline will transport the most corrosive, most intrusive form of oil–tarsands–at extreme pressure and temperatures.
So, even though the State Dept.’s report acknowledges the fact that tarsands oil causes much more pollution than other forms of oil, they still say the pipeline will have limited environmental impacts. That simply does not compute.
On top of the Dept. of State’s inadequate report, our own Unicameral and Governor continue to fail to lead. All three pipeline bills are sitting in the Natural Resources committee with little chance that they will have a full debate and a chance to become law. Gov. Heineman and his staff continue to mislead Nebraskans by saying there is nothing he can do to change the route of the pipeline. He can, but he suddenly thinks the feds know better–so much for state rights.
We need bold leaders to say this pipeline is too risky to move forward with at this time. We need to get beyond the lip service of making our country energy independent and actually take steps to make our country self-reliant for our energy needs.
Nebraskans are looking to our state elected officials, the staff at the Department of State and our national elected ofifcials, for leadership. We are looking to all of them to reconsider the route, our state’s lack of oil pipeline regulations and the overall TransCanada pipeline project.
We extend an invitation to anyone who is making the decisions around the pipeline to visit face-to-face with landowners and citizens who live in the pipeline route. You will not find wild excitement for the project.
Instead, you will find concerned Nebraskans worried about their land, worried about contamination of water, worried about permanent damage to their way of life and worried most of all that no one seems to care that a foreign company is threatening to take their land for a project that could also take away their livelihood.
REPORTS ON RISKS OF PIPELINE:
Nebraska LR 435 Interim Study on Oil Pipelines, this includes detailed information from UNL professors and other experts
UNL Dept. Ag Economics paper on the pipeline
Profile of individuals affected by pipeline
Report on pipeline safety