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State Dept. Releases Environmental Review

The State Department released the next step in the review process today, a report called the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). They are giving citizens 45 days to review and comment. The State Department will then issue a Final EIS. The State Department also must conduct what is called a National Interest Determination report and give other federal agencies 90 days to review that report. So, we are looking at a possible final decision in June or July, possibly later if hearings and proper review times is given to citizens.

Bold Nebraska will update this page as our team, citizens and landowners can review the SEIS. Our initial reactions are below.

Nebraskans met with the State Department less than 2 weeks ago, the concerns we brought up to Kerri-Ann Jones are listed here.

Read the State Department SEIS report: http://www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov

Checklist for press from national groups: http://www.350.org/KXL

Photos of Nebraska protests and landowners: http://www.flickr.com/photos/boldnebraska

Bottom Line
Tarsands does not expand unless Keystone XL is built. The State Department’s assumption that tarsands development does not change with or without this pipeline is wrong and laughable. Why would TransCanada spend billions on building the pipeline and millions on lobbying unless this piece of infrastructure is the–not a–but the lynchpin for the expansion of tarsands. Without this pipeline Canada stays at 2 million barrels a day, with it they get 3 million barrels a day. The President has the ability to keep a million barrels of tarsands in the ground a day. With a stroke of a pen he can protect property rights, water and make a dent in climate change. This report is laughable using the wrong assumption and therefore the wrong science. -Jane Kleeb, jane@boldnebraska.org, 402-705-3622

Nebraska Quotes

“A 45 day comment period is an insufficient amount of time for farmers and ranchers to provide input on a report that has no scientific studies on tarsands impacts to their land and water.  This is one of the busiest seasons for farmers and ranchers with calving and planting, and given that the agriculture industry is inheriting the most risk from an economic and environmental view they deserve a longer comment period of at least 120 days and one public hearing to defend their land and water.  ” -Amy Schaffer, Coordinator, NEAT, a state-based legal landowner rights group

“The State Department must listen to independent experts–including farmers and ranchers–and conduct a scientific review on what a worst-case spill would mean to Nebraska’s land and water. To release a study of a tarsands export pipeline, capable of pushing 1 million barrels a day, without knowing how a worst-case scenario spill will impact our land and water is unacceptable. The thousands of Americans who would live with this risky pipeline matter enough to get the assumptions about tarsands expansion and therefore the science and study right.” -Jane Kleeb, Director, Bold Nebraska

“The State Department process was delayed in order to deal with the concerns raised by thousands of concerned Nebraskans about protecting our fragile, sandy soils and vast and vulnerable Ogallala Aquifer. The DEQ report failed to adequately address these concerns. Our concerns were also raised by President Obama. He must reject this pipeline and protect our land and water.” -Ken Winston, Policy Director, Nebraska Sierra Club

Pipeline Risks and State Department Report

Bold Nebraska, citizens and landowners met with the State Department two weeks ago asking them to conduct proper water and soil studies. Below is the full recap of the meeting with our requests.

It is unfortunate that the SEIS does not address any of the concerns citizens and landowners had from day one of this project–there is no independent, peer-reviewed scientific studies being used in the formal evaluation process at the State Department or at the Nebraska level in the DEQ report.

We do have Nebraska experts—Drs. Stansbury, Woldt, Gates—that have submitted information to Nebraska elected officials, the DEQ and the State Department, yet those concerns and hard science go ignored and the risks to our land, property rights and water remain.

-The route still crosses the Sandhills and sandy soil that is corrosive to pipe.

-The route still crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, Niobrara river, Platte river and over 200 bodies of water in Nebraska as well as countless private family wells.

-No one, not one government entity at the state or federal level, has looked at the contract (i.e. Land Easement) between landowners and TransCanada and assessed the social and economic impacts and risks.

-We do not have a single study conducted by our government on what a worst case scenario spill, of at least 150,000 barrels would look like on the Aquifer or our rivers or on private land. We only have studies from TransCanada and their contractors or one computer model from the DEQ that only looked at a 47,000 gallon spill in the Aquifer.

-Comparing a tarsands and chemical diluent spill in Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer to a light-crude oil spill in a different Aquifer in Minnesota is not a valid scientific analysis.

-Since the Ponca Trail of Tears is now crossed with this new route, a proper tribal study and consultation must take place.

-Risks to Sandhills cranes, Whopping cranes, bald eagles and other wildlife are not fully addressed. Concerns about the American Burying Beetle are highlighted.

Follow-Up Letter to Kerri-Ann Jones on Feb. 22nd

Dear Kerri-Ann Jones,
 
On behalf of the Nebraskans that met with you last week, we wanted to reach out and thank you for taking the time to meet with us.  We sincerely appreciated the attentiveness of your team, attached is the agenda with hyperlinks to the documents we referenced during our meeting.  We will also send an updated map of the Sandhills and Aquifer in the coming weeks, while we submitted one map with the Citizens Review of the DEQ Report, after our meeting we realized we could make a few points more clear.
 
We were pleased to learn that the U.S. Department of State is not “cutting and pasting” the DEQ report into the EIS, this was welcome news given that the DEQ process and route are being challenged in the Nebraska court system.
 
As we discussed during the meeting the reasons for our concerns regarding TransCanada’s Keystone XL tarsands pipeline are as follows:

  • The proposed pipeline route still crosses the Ogallala Aquifer and the Sandhills.
  • The reroute did not address the issues of sensitive soil and critical bodies of water.
  • Economic risks were not covered in the DEQ report.
  • The DEQ report failed to adequately study risks to water and wildlife.
  • Keystone XL is an export pipeline with little gain for the United States.
  • Climate change is a global and local issue, the expansion of tarsands for this pipeline will pump almost 1 million barrels a day, and this is not in our nation’s best interest.

We asked that you consider the following:

  • A scientific study on the risks to the Ogallala Aquifer and other critical bodies of water using a worst-case spill scenario of at least 32,265 barrels. This figure comes from TransCanada’s Emergency Response Plan for the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline. The DEQ study only looked at a 47,000-gallon spill in the Ogallala Aquifer and ignored other bodies of water, including ground water contamination.
  • Significant risks to the Ogallala Aquifer and other critical bodies of water like the Platte River, Niobrara River, Elkhorn River and Verdigre Creek watershed continue to go unstudied. 
  • A full economic risk analysis that includes economic models from sources other than TransCanada or their consultants including the Perryman group.  The DEQ Report focuses entirely on positive economic impacts and ignores obvious risks.
  • A comment period of 120 days on the Supplemental Environmental Study with at least one Nebraska hearing.
  • Proper cultural study on scared tribal ground including the Ponca Trail of Tears, which the proposed pipeline route crosses at least 3 times in our state.
  • Wildlife risk report with a focus on Sandhill and Whooping cranes.

As Dr. Wayne Woldt with the University of Nebraska stated to Sen. Ken Haar recently:

“In summary, I am not sure of the extent to which the given approach (i.e., simplified model used to compute the time and concentration, at set distances down gradient) is the preferred approach to address the fundamental questions that are being asked about potential impact of the pipeline on groundwater resources, and environmental/human risks. In a sense, and in my initial opinion, I am questioning the “foundational” approach utilized in the report, to answer the basic questions that are being asked about the pipeline project. I suspect the plume emanating from a release would be much more “messy” than the idealized plume reflected in the simplified formulation of the model. From a broader perspective, I am concerned about vertical hydraulic gradients, large pumping wells, and surface/groundwater interaction, all of which will introduce complexity into the analysis, and yet reflect “more of a reality” in terms of the conditions that may be encountered in Nebraska.”
 
The 2010 tar sands oil spill near Kalamazoo, Michigan, has cost that pipeline company upwards of $800 million, and severely disrupted the lives and businesses of thousands of everyday people. A spill into the Ogallala Aquifer or a major river could contaminate the increasingly scarce water supplies necessary for families, farms, ranches, and industry. One oil spill could easily wipe out all of the economic benefits of KXL, yet the DEQ failed to estimate this economic risk.
 
Canadian oil companies have expressly stated that the primary purpose of the KXL pipeline is to increase the price of tar sands oil. Currently, the U.S. is Canada’s only major oil customer, and this keeps the price lower. If KXL is built, Canada will have a highway to Gulf Coast ports to export all over the world. By allowing Canadian oil to flow to international markets, KXL would let the world bid up the price for this oil, and Nebraskans will pay 10-20 cents per gallon more at the pump. Even a modest increase in the price of gasoline and diesel fuel could wipe out any of KXL’s short-term economic impacts.
 
Every year our weather is more severe and the disaster costs pile up, KXL will dramatically increase climate pollution through the extraction of tar sands. If the climate becomes unstable, the direct and domino effects of one natural disaster could easily wipe out KXL’s short-term benefits.
 
As you are aware, the citizens of Nebraska overwhelmingly (75% per the last UNL public poll) want to see the pipeline route avoid the Ogallala Aquifer and the Sandhills. You stated in our meeting that the States in the proposed path have the jurisdiction over the route placement however, our Governor has repeatedly told us that the entry point cannot be moved and if you look at a map of the route, http://deq.ne.gov/PipeMeet.nsf/DetailPDF2/$FILE/Sept5_1_r.pdf, it says, “FEIS approved.”  Can you please clarify what FEIS approved means?
 
Since, we spoke with you on Friday there was some recent press coverage on the NPPD issues in regard to Nebraska not having the electric power infrastructure to support the KXL pumping stations. We want to make sure to include this additional concern since we did not discuss this matter in our meeting. The need to build additional infrastructure to support this pipeline, especially since we are a unique 100% public power state, puts extra costs on citizens essentially meaning we are subsidizing a for-profit project. While we understand the financial aspects are not in your jurisdiction, when calculating the carbon emissions for this project we want to make sure this extra infrastructure is included in that final number.
 
The lack of representation that we are getting from our elected officials is extremely frustrating.  That is why we are turning to you and your teams to ensure our concerns are addressed, and the scientific studies are completed without the influence of TransCanada or their consultants.
 
Thanks you again for meeting with us, and for the time and service that you and your staff have given to the citizens of our country.
 
On behalf of all Nebraskans opposed to KXL and concerned about the expansion of tarsands,
Amy Schaffer

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