TransCanada Pipeline Background and Resources

News

Nebraskans are speaking out and taking action to help stop the TransCanada pipeline. This page is meant to be a resource with various reports and background about this critical topic. There is a lot in here…citizens and landowners have been tracking and fighting this pipeline for over 3 years (and for some about 5 years now). If you every need a specific piece of info, just email info@boldnebraska.org and we will get it to you. Bold operates on donations, please donate here.

Here’s a look at all the categories of info below:

We think the TransCanada tarsands pipeline is a risky and bad idea for our state, our land, our water and our economic activity. We do not want to see it built. We want to see investments in American-made energy, including domestic oil. We want to see regulations including an Emergency Response Plan for the tarsands oil pipeline that is already in the ground in the eastern part of our state. We also want to see our state put in place routing regulations, stronger eminent domain laws and financial responsibility for any future pipelines.

The pipeline originally was to cut across 92 miles of the Sandhills and 250 miles of farm and ranch land. TransCanada keeps changing their route–the more folks speak out, the more they move the pipe. The counties it would cross are Keya Paha, Boyd, Rock, Holt, Garfield, Wheeler, Greeley, Boone, Nance, Merrick (maybe not anymore), Polk, Saline, Jefferson, Hamilton, York and Fillmore. There are over 1,000 groundwater wells in the pipeline path and countless more smaller wells and seasonal surface water bodies. Even the reroute crosses the Sandhills and Aquifer. It still has the same entry point.

When we started this fight, Nebraska had NO regulations and no state agency to govern oil pipelines. Despite what state elected officials say, Nebraska DOES have a role in regulating oil pipelines. Our elected officials can do the following, but do not seem to have the political will to carry out their duty to protect our land and water:

  • Siting and routing of oil pipelines (the laws passed in Special Session got undone by LB 1161 and TransCanada now does not have to follow the PSC siting rules on oil pipelines. TransCanada only has to conduct an environmental review, no other laws apply to them)
  • Easement and eminent domain process and terms
  • Easement abandonment
  • Emergency response planning
  • Liability for spills
  • Bonding for road construction and/or repair
  • Regulation of neighboring land uses
  • Water testing (baseline and ongoing)

Groups raising concerns and working to stop the pipeline in our state include Audubon NebraskaBold Nebraska, GFWC Heritage League of Lincoln, Guardians of the Good Life,  Nebraska Bioneers, Nebraska Common Cause, Nebraska Farmers UnionNebraska Green PartyNebraska League of Conservation VotersNebraska Sierra ClubNebraska Wildlife FederationNebraskans for Peace and the local chapter of 350.org.

Two NRDs have passed resolutions opposing the pipeline, those include Upper Elkhorn and the Lower Niobrara. The resolution can be viewed here.

The Center for Rural Affairs‘ board and the National and Nebraska Farmers Union’s membership formally oppose the pipeline.

Pictures and Videos

Bold’s Flickr photostream (can be used for free, see photo credits on photos): http://www.flickr.com/photos/boldnebraska

Bold’s YouTube video page (can be used for free): http://www.youtube.com/boldnebraska

Pipeline still crosses the Sandhills and Aquifer: http://boldnebraska.org/uploaded/pipeline/deq_unl_statedept_maps_compared_final.jpg

Cartoon description of export nature of tarsands: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCq015rc_lk

 

DC Delegation Pictures (can be used for free, with attribution to Mitch Paine): http://tinyurl.com/NEDCpics

Pipeline Rally Pictures (can be used for free, with attribution to Mitch Paine): http://tinyurl.com/piperally 

Landowner Pictures (can be used for free, with attribution to Mitch Paine)http://tinyurl.com/piperally 

Pictures of Tarsands Mining (must be attributed to photographer on each pic): http://dirtyoilsands.org/visuals 

Video of Landowners speaking about land and TransCanada bullying: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-67r8gVLDa0

Randy Thompson (with permission of National Wildlife): http://tinyurl.com/RandyNE 

Lynda Buoy (with permission of Bold Nebraska): http://tinyurl.com/LynBuoy

Susan Luebbe (with permission of Bold Nebraska): http://tinyurl.com/SusLuebbe

Actions

ACTION GUIDE: Groups put together an action guide with 10 things you can do!

CURRENT EVENTS: All events are listed here and on our Facebook page.

DONATE: Small donations keep our work going, please donate today!

PICTURES: Many folks email us asking for pictures of landowners and the Sandhills, you can get those links here. For picture of the tarsands oil process, visit http://dirtyoilsands.org/visuals. More pic links below as well.

GEAR: Nebraska groups created yard yard signs (it’s a 2-sided yard sign), bumper stickers, buttons and t-shirts for Nebraskans to show their public opposition the pipeline. You can pick these up at events we hold, check our Event Page for the next one.

LETTERS: We have a letter writing action guide on our website, just click here for sample letters, contact info and more!

Background

TransCanada, a foreign company based in Canada, is trying to obtain a permit from the United States government to build a second pipeline in our state. TransCanada refers to this new, proposed pipeline as Keystone XL (the current pipeline in the ground already is called Keystone 1).

The pipeline carries the most expensive and dirtiest form of oil, called tar sands. It is a thick form of oil that requires many chemicals, high heat and high pressure to push it through the pipeline.

Because the pipeline crosses the US/Canada border, Sect. Clinton must approve the pipeline by granting a permit to TransCanada. Because of federal laws, Clinton must go through certain steps before she makes her decision, which includes various environmental studies and public hearings.

Under the Bush Administration and under Governor Heineman’s administration, a TransCanada pipeline called Keystone 1 was approved and is currently in the ground with oil flowing. That pipeline is NOT at capacity, so the obvious first question is why build another pipeline?

If the new pipeline is approved, up to 1.1 million barrels of tarsands oil, the dirtiest form of oil, will be pumping through our state everyday. The current pipeline, when at capacity, will pump 435,000 barrels of oil through our land and water.

Nebraska has only passed one law concerning oil pipelines, and it only covers reclamation and the siting laws passed do not apply to TransCanada. We have no trust fund set aside to help families if their land, water or health are affected. We have no Emergency Response Plan that has been made public. Nebraskans are, right now with the current pipeline in the ground, at risk and at the mercy of TransCanada if/when a leak, spill, blowout or anything else happens.

Additionally, numerous reports have cited increased rates of cancer at the source of the tarsands production in Canada.

Current News

Some articles of note are:

Reports and Letters

UNL Dept. Ag Economics paper on the pipeline: http://tinyurl.com/unlpipeline

NRDC does a great recap of how bad the tarsands are for America’s energy independence

Sierra Club profile of individuals affected by pipeline: http://tinyurl.com/sierrareport

Investigative report by Vince Wade on safety and the route of the oil to China: View article

National Wildlife report on overview and dangers of pipeline: View PDF

Plains Justice report on expense of pipeline: View PDF

News articles on faulty steel: View Article on faulty steel, View article on TransCanada using Indian steel instead of American steel

Plains Justice faulty steel report: View PDF

Joint report on pipeline safety: http://tinyurl.com/pipelinesafety

A study that describes how Tar Sands are dirty, expensive and cause cancer: View Article

A Friends of the Earth Report on TransCanada’s dirty business practices: View PDF

Letter to Sec. Clinton signed by over 32 groups asking for more time: View Letter

Check out a great letter by bold State Senators Sullivan, Haar, Dubas, Fulton, Coash to Sec. Clinton about the permit process.

The Congressional Memo that proves our state elected officials have the authority to re-route the pipeline and set regulations? Check out page five. It makes it clear that our state has the power to regulate routes of oil pipelines.

Public Hearings and Nebraska Information

The State Dept:
In May 2010, The Department of State held a series of public hearings in Nebraska to get input on their draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS). Nebraskans were able to get a copy of the draft EIS, ask questions and make comments that were all part of the official record. The Dept. of State is going through all of those comments–also made in other states the pipeline would go through–and must respond to all comments and questions. There is no timeline set on this process.

At these initial hearings, not one Nebraskan stood up in support of the pipeline. All comments made by Nebraskans were opposing the pipeline and/or expressing major concerns and asking many questions. One welder from Arkansas was at the hearings and made statements in support of the pipeline. His company got the contract to weld the current pipeline.

We would like to note that the agency that should have weighed in with official comments, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, has not said anything on this critical issue. This is one of the many red flags we see coming from the Heineman administration that they are ignoring the pipeline and Nebraskans’ concerns.

After much public pressure about the inadequecies of the first draft of the EIS, the State Dept. issued a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. The public comment period for the SEIS closed on June 6, and public field hearing will be announced soon.  We will update you when we find out dates and locations.

NPPD:
In July 2010, NPPD held a series of public meetings to get input on the proposed new transmission lines. The lines will cost taxpayers $49-64 million and TransCanada is supposed to pay Nebraska back on a monthly basis. The construction of the transmission lines was put on hold in early 2011 because the US State Dept. had not yet approved a permit for the pipeline. Construction resumed in Spring of 2011 but is now on hold.

State Legislation:
A quick review of state laws being proposed by the Nebraska Unicameral in the 2011 session is archived on our website and described below. However, only one pipeline bill passed the 2011 session, and it was a weak bill because the senators and citizens who cared about our land and water were simply out-lobbied by TransCanada.

On Dec. 1, 2010, Sen. Dubas and Sen. Sullivan held an initial hearing, spurred by LR 435, on the pipeline to get baseline information from advocates, landowners, water experts, Sandhills experts and oil industry leaders. The hearing resulted in a report for the Nebraska Unicameral and according to LR 435 was to be a study to include an “examinationofissuesrelatingtoliability,restorationof property,andregulatoryoversight.” 

In Feb. 2011, the Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the three bills that would have governed and regulated oil pipelines. The room was packed with citizens, landowners and advocates who all pleaded with the Committee to vote yes on the bills. We collected testimony from Nebraskans which you can read here.

On May 26, 2011 the Nebraska Unicameral passed LB 629 sponsored by Sen. Sullivan that takes one step towards comprehensive pipeline regulations for our state. The bill looks nothing like its original form which was very strong and would have provided some safeguards for landowners. However, the lobbying forces of TransCanada were very intense and Sen. Sullivan was able to pass a bill focused on reclamation. The bill essentially says TransCanada has to replant and fix land they disrupt. We still have a LONG way to go…

You can read the floor debate on Sen. Sullivan’s bill, just click on the link and look on the lower right hand side. There were three days of debate. Click Here for the floor debate

Blog post on the Department of State 2010 public hearings in Nebraska: View Post

Department of State EIS report: View Report

Farmers Union comments to EIS: View PDF

Nebraska Wildlife comments to EIS: View PDF

National coalition comments to EIS: View PDF

Much of this in Nebraska became all undone when Sen. Smith and the majority of the Unicam passed LB1161, more info here on the citizen lawsuit challenging this process.

Nebraska should be following only the PSC rules and regs on oil pipeline route review.

Nebraska Elected Officials

No elected official in Nebraska has officially stated they oppose the pipeline. Many have raised significant concerns about the route and safety of the pipeline (both the current TransCanada Keystone 1 and the proposed Keystone XL).

Gov. Heineman released his first public statement on the pipeline on Oct. 12, 2010.

Senators Nelson and Johanns have both issued press statements saying they have questions. Reps. Smith and Fortenberry have as well. Rep. Terry has not made a statement but is co-sponsoring a bill that tells the State Dept. to rush their decision.

Gov. Heineman and Attorney General Bruning have both taken potentially illegal campaign contributions from TransCanada and returned them after they were caught in Oct. 2010. Two groups filed FEC complaints against Bruning and Heineman, including Bold Nebraska.

State Senators Dubas, Dierks and Sullivan attended the Dept. of State public hearings in 2010. State Senator Ken Haar has attended several meetings and raised questions in public interviews about the pipeline.

The State Senators that the pipeline goes through their districts include Sens. Deb Fischer, Russ Karpisek, Kate Sullivan, Annette Dubas and Tom Carlson. Dubas and Sullivan introduced bills to help regulate oil pipelines in Nebraska during the 2011 session. Only Sullivan’s passed and was watered down to only cover reclamation.

Nebraska has NO regulations and no state agency to govern oil pipelines (Sullivan’s reclamation bill is toothless regulation).  Despite what state elected officials say, Nebraska DOES have a role in regulating oil pipelines. Our elected officials can do the following, but do not seem to have the political will to carry out their duty to protect our land and water:

  • Siting and routing of oil pipelines
  • Easement and eminent domain process and terms
  • Easement abandonment
  • Emergency response planning
  • Liability for spills
  • Bonding for road construction and/or repair
  • Regulation of neighboring land uses

Nebraska LR 435 Interim Study on Oil Pipelines (excellent info from UNL experts): Download PDF

Nebraska State Senators’ 1st Letter to Clinton: View blog post

Nebraska State Senators’ 2nd Letter to Clinton calling on her to delay the permit decision: View PDF

Senator Nelson public statements: View PDF

Senator Johanns page on his statements: View page

State Senator Fulton letter to Sec. Clinton: View PDF

Gov. Heineman letter to Sec. Clinton: View PDF

Members of Congress letter to Sec. Clinton: View PDF

Additional letter from more Members of Congress to Sec. Clinton: View PDF

Senator Johanns and Nelson continue to push Sec. Clinton for a supplemental EIS. One article that covers this request and has a copy to Johanns letter: View here

Sec. Clinton responds to Senator Nelson’s concerns: View letters on Nelson’s website

Maps of the Proposed and Current Pipelines

The proposed pipeline would go through various counties in Nebraska: Keya Paha, Boyd, Holt, Antelope,  Greeley, Boone, Nance, Merrick, Saline, Jefferson, Hamilton, York, Fillmore, Saline, Jefferson (the current propose route no longer crosses Rock, Garfield, Wheeler, Greeley)

Bold’s current map of Transcanada’s reroute and still crossing Sandhills and Aquifer (updated Nov. 2012): View JPG

Dept of State map of previous proposed pipeline across US: View the MAP

TransCanada’s map previous pipeline route in NE: View JPG

TransCanada’s map of the previous proposed route across the US: View PDF

An earlier Bold map of the earlier proposed route across Nebraska and the Ogallala Aquifer: View PDF

About TransCanada

TransCanada has business dealings with numerous big oil companies worldwide. Their corporate bio says they build energy infrastructure for North America. TransCanada will not use our land to produce oil for the United States. In fact, they use North American land to process oil to sell to whoever is the highest bidder. They have also come under fire for skirting safety measures and using lower quality steel from China and India. ConocoPhillips now owns 50% of the Keystone pipeline (the current pipeline in the ground already in Nebraska).

Press release about the partnership between TransCanada and Conoco: View Press Release

BP, TransCanada and Conoco partnerships on gas pipelines: Visit Article

Friends of the Earth produced a detailed report on TransCanada’s dirty business practices: View PDF

More Info on Pipeline and Tarsands Oil

Nebraska groups and citizens are taking action and speaking out to protect our resources from the risky TransCanada pipeline.  Groups have sponsored education forums, rallies, ads and lots more.  Some of the early radio ads highlighted a TransCanada Abuse Hotline: View Details. Groups involved include: 

National Websites
Many national groups are assisting our efforts in Nebraska and are working on a national level to help stop the pipeline.

Related News

TransCanada Has No Legal Route

TransCanada, after suffering a blow from Nebraska landowners and the Domina Law Group, is trying their best to pretend the basic fact of not having a legal route in Nebraska is no big deal. In fact, it’s a huge deal. Attorney General Jon Bruning and Governor Heineman, siding with a foreign oil corporation, are appealing […]
Read Post

TransCanada Pipeline

News
The TransCanada export pipeline, called Keystone XL, is a risky and bad idea for our state, our land, our water and our economic activity. We do not want to see it built. We want to see investments in American-made energy, including domestic oil and sustainable biofuels, wind, solar and efficiency programs, which bring long-term jobs to rural and urban Nebraska.
Read Post

Help build a Bold Nebraska

Join our email list to get the latest updates on key issues, online actions and events to attend.