Once again, citizens have taken the initiative.  A group of Nebraskans worked together to tackle the NDEQ’s Draft Evaluation Report of the Keystone XL proposed route that still crosses the Sandhills, sandy soil and the Ogallala Aquifer–Citizens’ Review can be downloaded by clicking here.

You can still submit a comment to the NDEQ until Dec. 7th (NEW DATE), click here or email NDEQ.SEISpubliccomment@Nebraska.gov  

We spent hours upon hours reading, researching, checking, double-checking and gathering comments and are proud to announce the release of theCitizens’ Review of the NDEQ Draft Report on the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

While not in the Citizen Report, we want to highlight a new concern that has been brought our attention. The proposed pipeline route is in path of the Ponca’s Trail of Tears. Tribal communities have not been properly engaged in the NDEQ process,   and we are standing with our sisters and brothers of tribal communities to ensure their voices and their ancestors’ rights are protected.

Mason placing 70 cars out during Laura Meusch testimony that TransCanada’s “state of the art” leak detection allows up to 441,000 gallons a day–or 70 semi tanker truck loads–of tarsands and chemicals to spill into our land and water undetected. Photo credit: Mary Anne Andrei

Press resources:

The Citizens’ Review can be downloaded here.

Quotes from landowners and group leaders can be found below and by clicking here.

Pictures of landowners and citizens for press use, click here (specific ones from the hearing coming soon)

Key findings of the Citizen Review (additional ones in report):

There has been no real and independent study done on the proposed full pipeline route–NDEQ has simply published information given to them by TransCanada. Because the NDEQ does not have any clear standards by which they are judging the route, their report is merely descriptive. Further, the report only covers portions of the “re-route” which means the route in York, for example, was not studied at all.

The proposed re-route still crosses areas of sandy soils, even though the NDEQ map with a shrunken version of the Sandhills says otherwise. We say, if it looks like the Sandhills and has sandy soils like the Sandhills, then it’s the Sandhills. The risks are the same if the soil is the same.

Most of the route still crosses the Ogallala aquifer, which was and is a main concern of a majority of Nebraskans. We agree with both Sen. Johanns and Gov. Heineman that the pipeline should avoid the Ogallala aquifer and with Pres. Obama that no amount of jobs should risk our water.

HDR, the contractor chosen to be the lead company writing the DEQ review, has a clear conflict of interest since they are a contractor on a joint Exxon Mobil and TransCanada gas pipeline project. HDR also gives significant money to candidates that support the Keystone XL pipeline. Further, on HDR’s own website states “We are positioned to help our oil and gas clients overcome these challenges and exploit the opportunities.” More documents detailing this major conflict of interest will be posted on our website over the coming weeks.

Key recommendations (additional ones in report):

State Senator Haar has requested more time for the review of the report, read his letter by clicking here.

More time needs to be given for a thorough analysis of the Draft Report. Even people who are well-versed in the pipeline issue, whose job it was to review the Draft Report, said they did not have enough time. There is no rush–we need to take our time and do this right. We request an additional 90 days. Citizens were only given 30 days to review a 600+ page report.

HDR should be terminated as the contractor conducting the review. Just as with Cardno-Entrix during the State Department’s review of TransCanada’s permit that was denied, there is a clear conflict of interest with HDR, a company that has contracted with TransCanada.

The NDEQ should develop clear standards by which they will evaluate a pipeline route. They should at a minimum adopt the standards developed by the Public Service Commission which were created with oil industry, citizen and landowner input as part of a very public and transparent process. The NDEQ process should equally be transparent and have clear standards.

Quotes from press conference held day after DEQ hearing:

“The fight over this export pipeline goes beyond the environment and beyond jobs,” said BOLD Nebraska Executive Director Jane Kleeb. “What is really driving this fight is the basic fundamental American principle that our families have a right to own land without a foreign company coming in and taking away.” Kleeb continued, “The so-called re-route is nothing but a PR move. The wishes of over 75% of Nebraskans, Governor Heineman and Senator Johanns have not been met. Those people asked that the pipeline avoid the Aquifer and the Sandhills. Those requests have not been met.”

“I was shocked by the lack of attendance of our elected officials,” said Nebraska landowner Randy Thompson. “This is a critical issue for our state, and our political leaders have essentially dropped this hot potato in our lap and said that it’s up to the citizens to solve it. To me, that is a shameful thing on their part–that they don’t have the courage to come and listen to the concerns of the people of Nebraska.”

“There is no indication that DEQ has read and analyzed the legal documents of the easements,” said Nebraska Easement Action Team lawyer Brian Jorde. “If the DEQ has not analyzed each and every term of that taking of Nebraska land, how possibly can they effectively have analyzed the impacts on Nebraskans, on the people who are the collateral damage of this route that is going from Alberta to Houston? If these impacts have not been considered and evaluated, the DEQ analysis is inherently flawed.”

“Last night’s DEQ hearing showcased the deficiencies in this process,” said Sierra Club Nebraska’s Ken Winston. “Only 2.5 pages of the entire 600 pages that DEQ put together in their draft report addressed the issue of what would happen to the groundwater or Aquifer if there was a pipeline release, and there was no analysis whatsoever related to climate change or the drought that is gripping the entire state of Nebraska.” Winston continued, “If the President wants to be taken seriously on climate change, he cannot approve Keystone XL.”

“The route that is currently being proposed for this pipeline passes through multiple points along the Ponca’s Trail of Tears,” said Indigenous Environmental Network’s Marty Cobenais. “There are spots along the route where they have buried their ancestors along the Trail of Tears. In fact, Nebraska’s tribes consider this entire region to be sacred, even where there aren’t burials and other sacred sites.”

Other quotes from landowners and citizens:

The DEQ Report addresses many mitigation measures in some detail, yet there are still many gaps such as TransCanada only conducting baseline water testing for water quality before construction and not monitoring the water quality for the life of the pipeline. There is no way to enforce any of the mitigation measures which are mentioned. There is also no accountability in the process and no penalties or fines incurred if the mitigation plan is not followed. –Susan Dunavan, landowner

The DEQ report is an incomplete evaluation of a natural resource especially a resource with the magnitude of the Ogallala Aquifer, and now it is left in the hands of TransCanada to do their own policing. –Bruce Boettcher, landowner

The DEQ has numerous statutory duties to protect our air, land and water. However, the report from DEQ’s highly paid consultant looks more like an attempt to carry water for a foreign pipeline company than the critical assessment of issues required by Nebraska law to protect our natural resources. The thousands of Nebraskans who have spoken up about their concerns about this pipeline deserve better than the report that DEQ is presenting to the public. Because Nebraska law declares that we are the owners of our groundwater, we all deserve a better and more thorough examination of potential threats to our vast and vulnerable Ogallala Aquifer posed by this pipeline. –Ken Winston, Nebraska Sierra Club

DEQ home page says they want help from the citizens to maintain our air water and land, but they have been very reluctant to accept any of our help. It seems they listen to Transcanada instead of the citizens they are supposed to represent. –Terry Frisch, landowner

The DEQ report lacks basic information on the unique risks of tarsands and dilutents to the Aquifer. Our state’s economy is dependent on this source of clean water, and for our state to “review” a pipeline route without even knowing the exact contents is irresponsible. As citizens, we expect our government to work for us and to protect our resources. Instead it seems TransCanada is writing the rules for our property rights and our state’s economic future. –Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska

No More Questions, No More Debate, Now Here’s the Gate. Get the hell out and stay out of Central Nebraska. Nebraska citizens are drawing this line in the sand now. –Tom Genung, citizen who’s mother-in-law was mislead to sign pipeline contract

As a Nebraska citizen, I feel more informed on the environmental impact of a tarsands pipeline crossing the State of Nebraska than the DEQ. I have done the research, the ground work, analyses of soils, landscapes, and water tables.  After reading the report it is clear that DEQ put forth little effort to analyze the data, collect additional data, or provide alternate recommendations on the route crossing the Ogallala Aquifer which is the long standing concern of the Nebraska citizens. –Amy Schaffer

TransCanada’s Emergency Response plan states, “consultation with indigenous communities should occur as part of the planning process.” However, the DEQ has neglected to consult with the current and former indigenous communities in Nebraska about a Emergency Response Plan and Tribal Historical Preservation including sacred sites and artifacts. The entire proposed pipeline route is within treaty boundaries of several tribes, and these lands are considered sacred as their ancestors have fought and defended these lands from foreign interests throughout their history. This is yet another example of why this proposed re-route is not a completed study and should not be approved. –Marty Cobenais, Indigenous Environmental Network

Citizen action:

We would like to say thank you to all the people who helped with the making of the Citizen Review.  Many of us can still do more:

1) Submit your comments to the NDEQ.

2) Write a letter to Gov. Heineman asking him to stand by his words and deny a pipeline route that crosses the Ogallala aquifer.