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Passions run high at Keystone oil pipeline hearing

By   /   December 4, 2012  /   36 Comments

An estimated 800 people turned out tonight for a public hearing in Albion on the revised route for the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska. Photo by Deena Winter\Nebraska Watchdog

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

Updated 11 a.m., Dec. 5

ALBION – An estimated 800 people filled a huge metal county fairgrounds building Tuesday night to talk about a proposed $7 billion oil pipeline that would be built through Nebraska en route from Canada to Texas.

If approved, the pipeline would be laid a couple of miles east of Albion, a town of about 1,800.

A whopping 168 people signed up to testify at the hearing, which went from 6 p.m. until about 2 a.m. today. More than 100 people testified, but others left as the hour got late. Most of the testifiers opposed the project.

It was a sometimes rowdy crowd, as many opponents to the pipeline booed or applauded speakers – despite admonitions not to — while supporters of the project were less vocal. At times it seemed like boots versus suits, as many people wearing boots, caps and jeans – farmers, ranchers and landowners – testified against the pipeline while many pro-business and free market advocates and people who would help build the pipeline testified in favor of it.

It was the final public hearing in Nebraska on the Keystone XL Pipeline that TransCanada has been working for years to get permission to build across America. The testimony was taken by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, which is tasked with reviewing a new route for the pipeline through Nebraska – where the project ran into a wall of opposition. Nebraska landowners have loudly protested the 1,700-mile project, primarily out of concern that oil could leak into the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest aquifers, covering parts of eight states.

The DEQ final report will go to Gov. Dave Heineman for review in January, and he has the final say on whether to approve it in Nebraska. Then the U.S. State Department will decide on a federal permit for the pipeline, since it crosses the border with Canada. Two representatives of the State Department attended the hearing, but declined comment.

A State Department official in D.C. told Nebraska Watchdog their Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement would be released for public comment “in the near future.” She said their review is being done in parallel to the state review, but said they have “extensively discussed the information and analysis” in both. After a public comment period, a final State Department report will be issued sometime in the first quarter of 2013.

Mason Mitchelll, 7, lined up trucks to illustrate Laura Meusch’s point that the pipeline could leak the equivalent of 70 life-sized tanker trucks of oil per day without detection. Photo by Mary Anne Andrei

Landowners’ concerns prompted TransCanada to revise its route through Nebraska, but the new route hasn’t allayed the concerns of many of the people who testified Tuesday night.

Landowners, representatives of Native American tribes and members of the anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska testified against the project.

People such as Bonny Kilmurry of Atkinson said the pipeline would threaten her land and water supply if the pipeline leaks into the aquifer.

“Water is our lifeblood,” she said. “We can live without oil. We cannot live without water.”

Corey Goulet, a TransCanada vice president responsible for Keystone projects, was the first person to testify, saying the new route avoids the ecologically fragile Sandhills – one of the major concerns of Nebraskans.

He said the pipeline will carry tar sands oil from Alberta – similar to heavy crudes transported across the nation daily – and also light crude oil from North Dakota. He said the oil is no more corrosive than any other crude oil.

Andy Prososki, a landowner whose property is in the path of TransCanada’s revised oil pipeline route through Nebraska. Photo by Marty Steinhausen

“We take our responsibility to build and operate a safe pipeline with the utmost seriousness,” he said, noting that TransCanada will invest $1 billion in Nebraska infrastructure and Nebraska counties will receive significant property tax revenue to build schools or lower taxes.

J. Paul McIntosh, an 88-year-old Norfolk man who grew up in northeast Nebraska, said he was dismayed by both sides of the controversy, because they seem more interested in discrediting their opponents and making emotional appeals than making sound, logical decisions. To say a 100-gallon crude spill could contaminate an entire aquifer, for example, is disingenuous when farmers, ranchers and cities have been spreading “untold thousands of gallons” of oil to control dust on roads for years.

Danny Hendrix, a pipeline constructor from Tulsa, Okla., said he would be nervous if the pipeline were going to be built across his land, but he said TransCanada is the most stringent client he’s ever worked for.

But several people questioned why TransCanada didn’t just build the second pipeline parallel to the Keystone One pipeline that already crosses eastern Nebraska.

Brigham McCown, former administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and now a transportation and energy consultant, said the pipeline industry is one of the most highly regulated in the nation. He called oil pipelines “unsung heroes of our economy” because they are “underground energy highways” in delicate locations such as the Everglades.

He said much of the opposition to the project is not about safety, but about environmental opposition to fossil fuels. “Holding a pipeline hostage is not the way to go,” McCown said.

One of the most passionate voices of the night was Susan Luebbe, a Holt County rancher whose land was in the original pipeline route.

“There’s a reason they call it flyover country, because the Midwest does not matter until everyone bitches enough,” she said loudly. She criticized the DEQ’s $2 million environmental review on the revised route as disorganized, a shamble and embarrassing.

By 9:30 p.m., people were leaving — including some who had arrived by the busload — and Bold Nebraska head Jane Kleeb was irritated that the hearing was held so late that it was impossible to accommodate all speakers.

The DEQ will continue to accept written testimony and public comments until 5 p.m. Friday. For more information, click here.

Contact Deena Winter at [email protected]. Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.


Deena formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Watching_From_Lincoln

    LB1163 and the process it created was a TransCanada/AFP/Koch brothers sponsored sham to rubber stamp the process and remove ANY scientific or environmental based opposition. Sen Jim Smith of Papillion doesn’t possess the brain power necessary to have come up with that original bill over night following the Obama Administration’s decision to deny the permit, but he is a good little Koch sucking boot lick, just like Carlson, Schilz, McCoy, Heineman, Fischer and the rest of the little fascist Brownshirts who would destroy Nebraska’s economy just to score their own little brownie points to inflate their pathetic little egos.

    WHEN the KXL, IF approved by the Obama Administration, leaks into the Ogallala Aquifer for the first time and the water used to irrigate crops or water cattle is contaminated with the Benzene, Xylene and Toulene used to thin the Tarsands down makes it into or onto our agricultural products the Nebraska brand – its reputation for premium beef and grain products – will be ruined on the international markets permanently.

    If you think that Korea or Japan throws a fit and rejects millions of pounds of Nebraska beef and places a six-month embargo on any more imports because they find one bone chip or incomplete invoice in a shipment, just imagine the reaction when news that the KXL had been leaking underground where it lies in the Ogallala Aquifer undetected for weeks while wells two miles away drew the contamination plume into the wellhead depression zone and pumped the contaminating Benzene, Xylene and Toulene into the stock tanks of neighboring ranches and feedlots – Nebraska beef imports to those, and every other country, will be banned for several years if not permanently, not to mention domestic sales. The same thing goes for crops irrigated with contaminated water or even the threat thereof – no markets for possibly contaminated soybeans or corn overseas or here.

    Governor HeineyMan better think long and hard – if he’s actually capable of thinking on his own instead of blindly following orders from Americans For Prosperity, the Koch brothers and TransCanada – if destroying the economic future of Nebraska is really worth his own personal gains. What really is the legacy of the HeineyMan Administration that he wants to leave behind; that of the man who saved Nebraska’s economic future by doing the right thing, or that of the traitor to the people of Nebraska who destroyed our State’s economy on the promises of his own personal advancement and enrichment by those who will profit from the toxic contents of the KXL?

  • The opponents have little science on their side. Build the pipeline. It is safe and brings a needed product to market.

  • The original Keystone pipeline leaked over thirty times. Whistle blowers from within Transcanada have gone public stating that the welds they use on their pipelines are junk. And of course, these pipeline routes always avoid any land owned by the wealthy. Where the KXL goes through Ozarka land in Texas (Ozarka is owned by corporate powerhouse Nestle) the pipe is extra deep and extra thick.

    And leaks are just the beginning of the concerns. Tarsand is NOT a fuel source people should be turning to. In fact, the only reason it’s considered viable is because conventional crude is passed its global peak in production. No money can be made off of tarsand if the price of a barrel of oil is under $100. So what we have here is a desperation play by an industry that has society by the short and curlies.

    It’s time to demand an end to dirty fuel, not to scrape the bottom of the barrel, risking air, water, and soil for every last BTU, so that our wasteful society can just piss it away on a trip to the mall.

  • Franklyn Fahrkwhar

    Years ago, I sat on a community block grant commission that decided how to use federal funds meant to serve low-income areas of our little Arkansas town. The city fathers had already decided they wanted to use the money to build a road through a city park, and they pretty much told our commission to rubber-stamp their great idea. However, none of the people who actually used the park wanted a road there. They testified before our commission that a road in the park would bring vehicle traffic into children’s playgrounds, which is never a good mix. Meanwhile, twenty neighbors living along a dusty dirt road in a low-income neighborhood spoke before our commission one at a time and begged for their road to be paved. The other members of my commission were unmoved by their pleas and were ready to vote for the park road, when I stood up and said, “Look, this is stupid. Nobody wants a road through the park and meanwhile we have all of these people who came down here tonight begging for help. We need to listen to them and pave their dirt road!” To which the whole audience cheered, and the other commissioners joined me in voting to pave their road. Moral of the story: Sometimes it just takes somebody to stand up and say, “Look, this is stupid.” You go, Bold Nebraska.

  • Joan

    Thank you WFL….I doubt the Gov has the balls to stand up for the people of Nebraska!

  • Joan

    ///facebook 597 406189 You do not know what you are talking about. Do not put your two cents into the cnversation without fact to back you up. Fox News is not fair and balanced it far right bold lies by a bunch of idiots.

  • We all know this pipeline will go through because the money has spoken. The will of the people or the real threat to our greatest resource means absolutely nothing to them! Our Governor is itching to sign the approval to advance his political career no matter the cost to the people or the state he’s supposed to represent! This pipeline company has the worst safety record in the country, if not the world & this pipeline shouldn’t even be considered until the company at least get’s serious about safety & greatly improves their safety record! If you’re going to do it in Nebraska, do it right or don’t do it at all! It looks like it’s time to protest at the White House again!

  • If science & safety was a factor, this pipeline would never have been brought to our attention in the first place. It would have been a non-starter! Facts are facts! We are seeing the power of big money here. This company has the worst safety record in the country, if not the world & this “Product” has been proven to be the dirtiest form of energy ever developed & the most expensive & time consuming to process. The company’s statements about this pipeline’s safety & “Need” has been debunked by every scientist not working for the energy companies as well as whistle-blowers from within the industry! The risks to our most valuable resource are real & the results could be deadly & an economic disaster! Taking this huge & unnecessary risk just so big oil can make more hundreds of billions of dollars in net profits per quarter in spite of the people or the environment is insane! The people that support this pipeline are woefully in the dark about the facts & science involved! Unfortunately it’s easier to fool people than convince them they have been fooled! Prove you have not been fooled – Stand against this pipeline!

  • I doubt the Keystone Pipeline will ever be built across Nebraska. The people don’t want it.

  • Joan

    Jazzee, “you will never win people over with ‘facts’ ” is a true statement with the extreme right wing Republican Tea Party here in Nebraska. How many times and how many ways can the majority say to you people that the pipeline is not safe and it will be leathal to Nebraska and that you can’t believe the Koch brothers, Ms Fischer and Gov. Heineman. It is the all mighty dollar that they care about. We have informed you and your bloody political friends till we are blue in the face but you are unable to understand cuz there is nothing between your ears to catch the information. You are stuck on stupid!

  • ProgressiveOasis

    The “tar sands” oil will leave Canada one way or another. Via KeystoneXL it comes through the USA picking up crude from North Dakota and Cushing OK along the way…replacing rail cars for the majority of Williston crude. Does Ms. Jane “Ivy Starnes” Kleeb think rail cars are safer than a pipeline or that Wiliston crude is less “dangerous” than crude from tar sands? If she does, she’s a moron. There is a competing all-Canada pipeline proposal to take the Canadian crude directly west for export and it will carry more than just tar sands oil if built. As for those idiots who think they can live without oil…please give it a try for a year or two. No farm chemicals, no transport, no cosmetics (please grant Jane an exemption as she needs all the help she can get), and every other necessity of modern life which depends upon crude oil as a feedstock. How would Ms. Starnes feel about Williston crude flowing North and then West for export to China??? Get a grip people…if the millions of tons of ag chemicals haven’t already polluted the precious aquifer then you shouldn’t get your panties in a wad over a pipeline.

  • ProgressiveOasis

    If you do go protest at the White House again…do yourself a favor and don’t get in between Jane Kleeb and any media or you will get trampled to death…and at the “last minute” Jane will be too valuable again to get arrested for protesting…LOL!!! Pinheads!

  • ANebraskan

    I saw several contradictions from the environmentalists that nite. One was they were concerned that the pipeline would hurt the sandhill cranes but support a wind farm located next to the town of Albion. The wind farms do not hurt migratory paths? And they don’t support using oil at all due to carbon and global warming but tell me how do you run a tractor on solar panels? And they don’t support selling oil or transporting it for foreign countries to use, why should Nebraska deal with foreign countries? hmmmmm, who do we export our grain to? And the comment that farmers can live without oil but not water…..really? How long can a farmer go without oil? especially affordable fuel? I suggest if they are worried about tearing up the sandhills, maybe they should not be plowing into them, dumping toxic chemicals on them with wells only 20 feet deep. Just sayin……oh and don’t forget to look at how many pipelines run across the state of Oklahoma and the Aquifer is located there too. I think most people saw thru this.

  • Rollerski

    Fact, we are at the end of easy fossil fuels. Destoying our planet to get the remaining energy resources with extreme measures is truely the end. Money greed, policitical agenda, loss of human rights, this is how it all comes to end the planet. We are in serious global trouble. We are destroying our earth. We farmers and ranchers are the battle front line to safe the planet. Who would have thought the end times was in Nebraska. I am a Nebraska farm owner at risk with this pipeline. I am grieving. Never thoughts it would be in my lifetime. Never thought my grandchildren will suffer the end result.

  • Rollerski

    Thank you ditto

  • Rollerski


  • Rollerski

    I am loosing my tolerence for this continued bullshit. We need energy, we don’t need tar sands at the expense of being able to live on this planets. We need to stop fighting. Realize our planet is in trouble. Find solutions. Get rid of the policitical bull shit. Stop the unethical control of big oil on our democracy for unreal profits to a few people. Realize that all people on this planet are suffering because of co2contamination. This is not about you and me this about being able to live on this planet.
    Yes I am a farmer in risk of contamination of this pipeline. Yes I know first hand of the pain this is causing. I am so tired of the extreme rights and there policitical agenda in the name of god, citizens for prosperity, super PAC, Koch brother, nebraska legislature, mike Johanns, gove Heineman , state dept, sen terry, new sen fisher, sen smith. Pipe fitters, and on and on, and especially Trans cananda lies and half truths The real truth, this is the end. Now what are we going to do about it. My end is loss of citizens rights In favor of big oil, mining an oil resource that is the worst enviro mental catastrify ever seen .

  • Rollerski

    Oh just. Shut up. Water to drink or oil. Your choice.

  • Rollerski

    It’s us oldies that are being arrested. We dont have to be worried about our resumes . The young have a different role. It’s there future we a re throwing away.

  • Rollerski

    Progressive – do you have the courage to be arrested for something you believe in. We have a corrupt government with the last feedom remaining. Freedom of speech.

  • Rollerski

    Why am I responding to somebody who calles others pinheads . Insults do not solve problems. We have an environmental problem here. KXL is the one , the end as far as co2 in the atmosphere . We stop this we have a chance of surving. If you don’t have this pipeline in your backyard, you know very little. I on the other hand do with a lot at risk.

  • Joan

    Carefull Mr ProgressiveOasis who you call an idiot. Me thinks every time you open your mouth on the pipe line issue you show how uninformed you are about environmental issues and the role that oil plays in the near future. Crude from tar sand cannot even be refined in this country because we don’t have a refinery to do same, number one and number two, it is the bottom of the barrel so to speak of oil that it is worth about as much as teets on a board. The oil barons will kill their own to continue to keep their financial kingdoms regardless of what it does to the earth.

  • So, it looks like the pipeline is not going to be laid right over the “midwest ocean”, it is going to be on the beach of the ocean.
    Remind me, was the BP platform, or the one near Mexico in the Gulf, out in the middle of the Gulf, or relatively close to shore?

  • First,
    Mr. Linder (NEDEQ) was misled or didn’t understand the process/effort $$$ to complete an impartial unbiased environmental review document? Well who consulted with him or advised him in the first place? Oh yeah the same folks writing the document!

    I’m clear now. If NEDEQ isn’t knowledgable of the effort and standard to which the document should be developed, how can they determine if the document is sufficient and complete? Being the case, the Govenor has only one responsible decision, to decline support for the determinations made in this documet.

    NEVER give up! In Football, one side always wants the opposition to give up. This moment in history is yours if you want it bad enough!

    YOU/All need to keep lobbing (i.e. email, mail, tweet, post)
    to the State Governor, Federal Represenatives, and US Secretary of State and the President)!!! March on the NE Capital and support folks Marching in DC and elsewhere!!!

    and Third,
    Politically, If the decision was made long ago and this process is smoke and mirrors, so be it!
    Let the Decision Makers know that you will take your previous efforts on
    this issue to the 10th power, in opposition to their re election in any State
    or Federal office.


    This project has very little to do with US Energy Policy. Currently, the US produces more fossil fuel (NG, Crude Grade Oil, & Coal) based energy than any time in US history. During 2000 to 2008, the petroleum industry (special interest group) was allowed to circumvent US Federal Hazardous Material Regulations in the development of Natural Gas all over this country. Watch the TV special “Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild” on NET on how NG development in Wyoming has turned the back country into a city street road network without housing.

    NO one is saying Canada/China can’t develop their own energy
    resources and TransCanada can’t pipe it for them? The safest route, determined by shortest distance, to China is west across Canada to the Pacific Ocean. This will allow extra refinery capacity in TX to produce gasoline/diesel/Jet fuel grades for the US. ND can build their own refinery in ND and I’ll galdly buy there fuel as I do CENEX from refineries in WY and KS.

    To the CREDIT of rural Nebraskans and citizens of the United
    States, they are exercising their Constitutional Rights to participate in the
    decision making process to determine if this proposed project is in the best
    interest of Nebraska and the United States, both now and for future

    Nebraskans would be best served to first, not locate this
    pipeline slurry of Benzene with other toxic chemicals and tar sands type raw oil through the state.

    Reason – the toxicity level of this slurry is well known to cause cancer even in low exposer rates and the viscosity or consistency of this slurry cannot be easily contained or neutralized when out of a containment vessel.

    Second, if you locate this pipeline though NE, place the
    pipe alongside the existing Keystone alignment within soils having non-porous characteristics which will best contain and simplify clean-up of releases. This still is far from ideal because of exposure when crossing surface waters that interact with ground water resources. Also, increase the pipeline owner State liability and emergency response fund to 750.000.000.00 to incentivize the maintenance and safety during the operation of the pipeline.

    Reason – No one can predict the severity and extent of
    impact to Nebraska Natural Resources due to an accidental release caused by human error and/or failure when operating a large structure and supporting system. (i.e. 2010 Deepwater Horizon Catastrophic drill rig failure in the Gulf of Mexico and lessons learned as a result, Not apple to apple comparison but makes the point.)

    Best for Nebraskans and the US is for Decision Makers (Governor
    of NE and US State Dept.) to do the right thing.

    There are many National Security and environmental reasons
    the US needs a solid comprehensive long-term energy policy but that’s another issue which needed to be addressed decades ago.

    Politics removed, logical reasoning based on National Security and Environmental Impact and Scientific fact support policies which would increase diversity of our sources of energy and/or decrease our majority dependence on crude type oil.



  • The money came from the Federal government so it was free and had to be spent. Just one more reason that the country is over $16Trillion in debt.

  • You expect us to believe that all of those same Nebraska farmers do not use ANY pesticides at ALL? Or that there are ANY dirt roads in Nebraska that are dust free and never oiled?

  • Finally, a sane comment.

  • “Teets on a board” ??? It is teats on a boar (which is the male pig). They will let just about anyone buy a computer and make comments.

  • Joan must be unaware of the thousands of miles of pipeline already under the ground in Nebraska. Must get all of her information from CNBC, CBS and ABC. I would tend to believe the Koch brothers before I would believe her.

  • Rollerski – You are a pollutant if you believe that CO2 is a contaminant because it is what is released every time you exhale. Therefore, you should consider ofting yourself for the sake of the planet.

  • The United States does not currently have an Energy Policy. It does have a president that is doing everything possible to bring about its destruction from within.

  • Your grand children would probably like the benefits that the Keystone pipeline would bring. Certainly in their lifetimes oil, gasoline and plastics will make their life not only easier but also more enjoyable. You had you life and made your choices for yourself why are you trying to deny them choices as well.

  • You had better hope that we have co2 in the air around us because without it there would be no plants to produce oxygen (required to breathe). Don’t be leive every cause that Al Gore supports. He has a HUGE carbon footprint but wants everyone else to be shoeless and poor.

  • Tell them I do not object to them rerouting the pipeline thru Nevada. I was not worried when they came up with the idea to store Nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain some 90 miles from where I live. More nuclear power and less of those windmills scattered everywhere makes sense. I doubt that all of you ecology nuts even recycle your own garbage but want everyone else to do it. Let’s save the spotted owl, polar bears and every kind of lizard. Maybe while we are at it we can bring back the dinosaurs.

  • … and those global warming people have got science on their side, too. NOT!!!

  • Henry Pratt would you believe my birth cirtificate?