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Our Formal Submission to State Dept: Risks Remain

In addition to the 13,004 public comments we submitted on behalf of Nebraskans and the over 1 million comments nationwide submitted, state-based groups came together to submit a detailed response to the State Department on why we oppose the Keystone XL pipeline–the route, the map of the Sandhills, emergency response plans, landowner rights, spill liability, concerns about our water and economic risks to rural farmers and ranchers are all detailed in our submission to the State Department including how the DEQ changed the region of the Sandhills on their own website to cover-up the real Sandhills and give TransCanada political cover for a risky route.

View the full PDF of our submission to the State Department.

To view the 13,004 public comments submitted, please email info@boldnebraska.org. We will make those available to press to verify our figure. We dispute TransCanada’s nonprofit, Nebraskans for Jobs, submission since they used robocalls to gather the “signatures” but even if you pressed a button saying you were against the pipeline, the call thanked you for signing their petition. The “nonprofit” group was founded by TransCanada staff, TransCanada lobbyists and a member of the Laborers.

Issues with the Nebraska Process and Map
When the Nebraska DEQ conducted their review of the pipeline, citizens submitted a detailed Citizens Review with concerns over the route, the shrunken version of the Sandhills, lack of information on local spill response plans and the overall concern that our state was using biased information from a consultant that works with TransCanada on other projects. The Nebraska DEQ and Gov. Heineman did not listen to citizens, instead they approved a risky pipeline route that still crosses the Sandhills and the Aquifer while giving TransCanada eminent domain powers before they even have a permit to build. That route and eminent domain powers are being questioned in court but their flawed report was passed on to the State Department for them to incorporate into the federal review.

State Department Submission
Our concerns submitted to the Nebraska DEQ are similar to our concerns submitted now to the State Department. We call on the State Department to conduct the following studies by scientists and economic experts that have zero ties to TransCanada or the oil and gas industry:

1)     Spill Study: Worst-case scenario spill analysis on the Ogallala Aquifer, Platte and Niobrara rivers, Verdigre Watershed and families wells must be conducted. An unbiased study was conducted and peer-reviewed by Dr. Stansbury but yet was ridiculed and dismissed by a former TransCanada employee in the US State Dept. review. Utilizing Dr. Stansbury spill model as well as a new and unbiased review is requested. At a minimum, a spill in the amount of tarsands listed in TransCanada’s draft Emergency Response Plan should be studied which is 32,265 barrels. Only a study of roughly 1,000 barrels has been conducted to date and only on the Aquifer, not the water sources that feed into our major cities and individual families water supplies. Dr. Woldt, Stansbury and Gates have all repeatedly stated they are willing to assist the State Department and their concerns are attached in the Appendix of the full PDF.

2)     Economic Risk Study: Economic impact analysis on family farms and ranches must be conducted. We know from the recent MI and AR tarsands spills families homes were bought by the oil companies because of the pollution. We know land values go down when an oil spill happens. We know some mortgage companies are now saying they will not loan money to operations that have unconventional energy projects on the land. While the State Department and the Nebraska DEQ studies show the economic benefits of the pipeline, they do not give a detailed economic risk study on property and local communities after a spill.

3)     Landowner Contract Impacts: Ultimately real people – landowners along the route – will bear the risks and liabilities associated with the existence of the tarsands and chemical pipeline running underneath and through their land and water. These risks and liabilities will be perpetual and forever, according to TransCanada’s contract with the landowners, even though the project has a useful life of 50 years or less. No federal, state, or local entities of any kind have studied the impacts upon landowners and localities through analysis of the proposed Easement Agreement TransCanada demands landowners sign. The Easement Agreement is the sole contract defining rights and responsibilities of TransCanada, its successors, and the landowners. Without detailed review of exactly what liabilities, risks, and costs TransCanada is placing upon the landowners a thoughtful determination of the full risks of this proposed project cannot be made.

4)     Proper Sandhills Map: The map of the Sandhills being used to determine if the route avoids this sensitive area is not adequate. If the soil of the Sandhills is too fragile for a maximum capacity pipeline, then the soil map used to route the pipeline should reflect these fragile soils and the pipeline should avoid them rather than an arbitrary map found that simply shrinks the Sandhills rather than avoid the region and the fragile and corrosive soils. The 1-90 alternative route avoids the Sandhills and the Aquifer and should be studied as a true alternative.

5)     Safety: Pipeline safety must be a focus of more studies in this review. A 47-page review of TransCanada’s emergency response plan and overall safety concerns, titled “The Failure of the DSEIS to Adequately Analyze TransCanada’s Oil Pollution Act Facility Response Plan,” is attached in Appendix G and written by expert Paul Blackburn. Whistleblowers in the United States and in Canada provided clear documentation on technical issues in the past and currently on TransCanada projects including Keystone 1. We understand whistleblowers retained documents that were submitted to PHMSA that outlined serious technical problems that should be addressed before any permitting process on Keystone XL is completed. Just because TransCanada says they will build the safest pipeline does not mean it will be state-of-the-art “safe.” Previous incidents on Keystone 1, like PHMSA shutting down the line because of the risk to life or the over 14 spills and leaks in lass than one year, have proven they in fact do not have the safest pipelines ever built. Additionally, one of the whistleblowers brought forward allegations that TransCanada was withholding crucial evidence that show the there are construction risks beyond what has been presented to the State Department. We understand when TransCanada had to shut their line down in October 2012 one of the people who reviewed the problem said the pipe looked like rats ate thru the pipe. Without adequate studies on safety and knowing TransCanada had not provided even the first responders along Keystone 1 in Nebraska adequate training or response equipment. We have major concerns around safety.

Thank you to the team that wrote the report submitted to the State Department. Paul Blackburn worked with our team and wrote a full critique of TransCanada’s Emergency Response and Oil Spill Plans and overall poor safety record. Ben and Amy led the team and wrote the bulk of the report. The work they do alongside landowners every day is what will stop this pipeline.

Benjamin D. Gotschall, on behalf of Bold Nebraska

Amy Ann Schaffer, on behalf of Nebraska Easement Action Team (NEAT)

John Hansen, on behalf of Nebraska Farmers Union

Jane Kleeb, on behalf of Bold Nebraska

Mary Pipher, on behalf of Lincoln 350.org

Jim Knopik, on behalf of North Star Neighbors Co-Op

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BOLD Nebraska
208 S. Burlington Ave., Ste 103, Box 325, Hastings, NE 68901