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York Board Grills TransCanada

At the York County commissioners meeting on June 29, 2011, TransCanada asked the board to approve the use of county roads as haul routes for Keystone XL pipeline equipment and materials.  TransCanada reps also gave an “update” on the status of the pipeline, the only real item of substance being that they announced (and it has been confirmed) that the five state hearings in Aug. will be held in the respective state capitals.  So in Nebraska, Lincoln will be the site of the public hearing, although the exact date and location has not yet been determined.

It was refreshing to see the York County commissioners questioning TransCanada’s statements and assurances.  Many of the board members (and attending citizens) were skeptical of TransCanada’s routine assurances, asking relevant questions regarding the impact such hauling would have on county roads, wondering who would be responsible for damages and urging TransCanada to be transparent in dealing with the county and landowners.

TransCanada rep Tracy Calhoun stressed that “good communication is key,” but when asked by board members if TransCanada would be sending letters to landowners living along the haul routes to notify them of the increased traffic and possible road obstruction, her answer was, “No.”  One concern of the board was that not all residents along the haul routes get the newspaper, nor do all of them have internet access.  We’ll see if TransCanada will practice “good communication” and notify people whose lives will be affected by the increased traffic of heavy machinery, equipment and materials on their roads.

Another question posed to TransCanada rep Bud Anderson was whether landowners who have received easement payments would have to give that money back if the State Dept. denies the permit for Keystone XL.  His answer was also, “No.”  This has been a big concern for many landowners I’ve talked to who have signed easements (often because of intimidation and/or misinformation from TransCanada) and have been hesitant to oppose the pipeline publicly for fear of retribution.  

The next meeting dealing with TransCanada in York county will be July 26th at 10:30 a.m. in the courthouse basement.  Clearly, the York county commissioners are willing to do their part to make sure there is a democratic process in dealing with TransCanada.  Even if you’re not from York County, you can attend the meeting and participate in the public comment session.  Board Chairman Kurt Bulgrin has expressed his gratitude to those who were at the meeting and encouraged more of the public to attend and participate in the future. If you are unable to make it to the meeting, you can still contact members of the board, thank them for their willingness to provide an open process, and encourage them to hold TransCanada accountable.  You can contact Chairman Bulgrin via e-mail at kurtbulgrin@hotmail.com or by phone at (402) 366-6458.  The website for York county, which carries updated agenda information is http://www.yorkcounty.ne.gov and the phone number for the York county clerk is 402-362-7759.

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