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Merrick County Thumbs Up or TransCanada's Fingerprints?

UPDATE, 5/11: Residents and landowners went to the board meeting on May 10th and the board voted to suspend their letter of support and take it up at their next meeting.  Shorty Hahn also admitted to taking money from TransCanada and that he should have not voted on the letter.

Newspapers and tv stations covered the story last week that one county—Merrick County—on the pipeline route is giving their “thumbs up” to the TransCanada pipeline by writing a letter of support for the risky and controversial project.

No one seemed to dig any deeper or be concerned about why they are making the move to write a “letter of support.”

Word on the street is that at least one elected official who voted to write a letter of support for the TransCanada pipeline also took some money from the Canadian company in exchange for parking their vehicles on his land.

Classic TransCanada move.

At least one landowner, Randy Thompson, is concerned and wrote to the Board of Supervisors

You can take action too by contacting the Board of Supervisors and writing a letter to the local papers.

Bold Nebraska had a feeling that the “thumbs up” from the Merrick County Board of Supervisors had TransCanada’s handprints (or rather money) behind it because we know that’s how they operate.  When TransCanada doesn’t get what they want, they begin throwing money at the problem.

TransCanada has given out $10,000 grants to local groups in the pipeline route for new playground equipment and baseball fields.  They gave a pick-up truck to fire fighters and handed a $50,000 grant to Seward for “community development.” TransCanada has also hired high-paid lobbyists for the past 3 years to make friends with our state’s elected officials.

Reporters have recently asked Bold why we think the Unicameral, Governor Heineman or Attorney General Bruning have not taken action to change the pipeline route or passed any state regulations to protect landowners and our natural resources.

The answer is increasingly crystal clear: money.

The obvious followup question is if this project is so wonderful for our state and is not a risk to our natural resources, then why would TransCanada have to buy their way through all the states in the pipeline route? (We won’t even go into the millions spent on direct mail pieces, ads in papers, buying air time during Husker games, etc.)

Nebraskans who support the pipeline but want to see the route changed and Nebraskans who completely oppose the pipeline because its too risky all agree on one thing: we need state regulations in place right now because our state has NONE.

Having no state laws on the books leaves us wide open to landowners being bullyied, financial responsibility for road repair (because of TransCanada’s heavy equipment) and coming up with money to clean up oil spills that TransCanada (like BP and Enbridge) will undoubtedly try to wiggle out of paying for.

It’s a sad day when a hairstylist in Nebraska has to apply for multiple permits and abide by health inspector visits to ensure they are following all regulations and codes.  Yet, a major tarsands oil pipeline project is under no state regulations.

The “thumbs up” by Merrick County is not based on merits of the pipeline project. TransCanada will get a letter of support from the county because money has trumped Nebraskans’ concerns.

Our elected officials must be held accountable.  We encourage folks to write letters to the local papers in Merrick County and to send letters to the Board of Supervisors asking for documentation of all board members and the staff to disclose how much money they, their relatives or their local club/groups have received from TransCanada over the past few years.

When the public has answers to these questions, we have a feeling that the Merrick County “thumbs up” letter will look like another document that has TransCanada’s fingerprints all over it.

ACTION:

Email or Call the Merrick County Board of Supervisors, 308-946-2881, izatat@cablene.com and rweller@gpcom.net (see *note)

Ask the board to show the meeting minutes of all TransCanada discussions and to disclose the money/contracts the staff, board members and their relatives have taken from TransCanada, including funds for “community” projects.  Also ask the board to NOT sign the letter of support for the pipeline. *note: the only two emails of the Board of Supervisors listed on the Merrick County website are the two above.  Those are for DL (Shorty) Hahn and Rex Weller.

Write a Letter to the Editor of the local papers in Merrick County which include the Republican Nonpareil, Grand Island Independent, Nance County Journal and Columbus Telegram.

Randy Thompson, a landowner in Merrick County, wrote this great letter to the Board of Supervisors. A letter like this could easily be turned into a letter to local papers asking for the board to disclose more information and to give further explanation on why they are supporting this project.

Dear Merrick County Board Member:

I find your board’s decision to publically support the XL pipeline to be a slap in the face to your neighboring landowners who oppose the project Apparently the lure of a few free lunches and some additional tax revenue was just too much to resist.

My family (mainly my parents) has supported your county and the surrounding communities for over 35 years, but I guess that doesn’t count in the big scheme of things. Since you anticipate getting a bunch of tax dollars from the pipeline I guess you won’t have a need for the piddly $7,000 that we just paid in Merrick County real estate taxes; so you can just send that back if you want to. It’s amazing to me how quickly some community leaders can forget who helped build their communities in the first place.

Since you have decided to unanimously support this pipeline I certainly hope all of you did your homework first. I hope you had a chance to study the consequences of the 800,000 gallon Enbridge pipeline spill that occurred in Michigan last summer. It might be a good idea to visit with some of those county boards just to see how that all turned out for them.  While you’re at it please visit with some of the several hundred folks who were permanently displaced from their homes and businesses; that might give you a better perspective on how friendly these oil giants really are when a disaster occurs. Speaking of disasters, I do have one request; please send me a copy of your emergency response plan, or were you assured over dinner that you won’t need one?

You may find me to be a little “wired up” about this issue, but I have a 94 year old reason to be, my Mom. You see, her farm on Prairie Island is her source of income, her livelihood, so I’m going to do whatever I can to protect that.

Sincerely,
Randy Thompson

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