Update: Governor Heineman’s announcement sparked reaction on several fronts including Heineman’s political friends, foes, and the company which wants to build the pipeline. (See updated information in red below).
Officials with TransCanada say the governor’s decision caught them completely off-guard. Company spokesman Jeff Rauh tells KFAB radio he doesn’t “have a feel” for Heineman’s move but added that TransCanada looks forward to talking with the governor.
Heineman, who says he is not opposed to pipelines, worries the XL’s proposed route through Nebraska’s Sandhills will put the Ogallala Aquifer at risk. Heineman’s decision—asking the President to deny TransCanada’s permit—comes five days after the U.S. State Department issued its final Environmental Impact Study backing the pipeline as is.
In a letter (see full text below) to the President, Heineman writes:
“I am opposed to the proposed route of this pipeline. The Final Environmental Impact Statement compares a potential spill in the Sand Hills region to a 1979 Bemidji, Minnesota spill and concludes that ‘the impacts to shallow groundwater from a spill of a similar volume in the Sand Hills region would affect a limited area of the aquifer around the spill site.’ I disagree with this analysis, and I believe that the pipeline should not cross a substantial portion of the Ogallala Aquifer.”
Following Heineman’s announcement Americans for Prosperity-Nebraska, a conservative group which is usually in agreement with the governor, came out against Heineman’s decision. In a brief statement Nebraska Director Mike Friend said the XL pipeline will create thousands of jobs and keep the oil from winding up in countries like China. “If we don’t build this pipeline, another country will,” said Friend.
For the last several months Nebraska’s two U.S. Senators, Democrat Ben Nelson and Republican Mike Johanns, have raised serious questions about the XL’s proposed route. Both are concerned a leak could harm the Aquifer which provides much of Nebraska’s farming and drinking water.
Shortly after Heineman’s letter was released Johanns issued a statement backing Heineman’s request and then doubled down on the President. According to Johanns, “Amid much discussion about authorities, one thing is irrefutable and that is the State Department’s authority to approve or reject TransCanada’s current permit application.”
Despite plenty of criticism Heineman has argued for several months that the governor does not have the power to stop the pipeline.
One of those critics, Senator Nelson, says Heineman’s letter to the President should not be the governor’s last move. “I wrote to the State Department a year ago urging them to seek comment and analysis from the state. Clearly, the state has the authority and responsibility to determine the route of the pipeline through Nebraska,” said Nelson. “If the governor doesn’t like the route he has the power to change it.”
Reported by Joe Jordan, firstname.lastname@example.org
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Governor Heineman’s letter:
Dear President Obama and Secretary Clinton:
I am writing to you today regarding a very important issue to the State of Nebraska and to our citizens- the Keystone XL Pipeline. I am opposed to the proposed route of this pipeline. The Final Environmental Impact Statement compares a potential spill in the Sand Hills region to a 1979 Bemidji, Minnesota spill and concludes that “the impacts to shallow groundwater from a spill of a similar volume in the Sand Hills region would affect a limited area of the aquifer around the spill site.” I disagree with this analysis, and I believe that the pipeline should not cross a substantial portion of the Ogallala Aquifer.
Of the current proposed route, 254 miles of the pipeline would come through Nebraska and be situated directly over the Ogallala Aquifer. The aquifer provides water to farmers and ranchers of Nebraska to raise livestock and grow crops. Nebraska has 92,685 registered, active irrigation wells supplying water to over 8.5 million acres of harvested cropland and pasture. Forty-six percent of the total cropland harvested during 2007 was irrigated. Maintaining and protecting Nebraska’s water supply is very important to me and the residents of Nebraska. This resource is the lifeblood of Nebraska’s agriculture industry. Cash receipts from farm markets contribute over $17 billion to Nebraska’s economy annually. I am concerned that the proposed pipeline will potentially have detrimental effects on this valuable natural resource and Nebraska’s economy.
I want to emphasize that I am not opposed to pipelines. We already have hundreds of them in our state. I am opposed to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline route because it is directly over the Ogallala Aquifer.
Therefore, I am asking you to disapprove TransCanada’s pending permit request. Do not allow TransCanada to build a pipeline over the Ogallala Aquifer and risk the potential damage to Nebraska’s water. Thank you for your consideration of this matter.