Opposition is rising to the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska, and it's prettyhard to dismiss these folks as "extreme environmentalists." U.S. Senator Mike Johanns has demanded more information and a different route for the pipeline to protect the sensitive Nebraska Sand Hills and Ogallala Aquifer. Nebraska farmer and State Senator Annette Dubas is leading an interim legislative study of Keystone XL's potential impacts on the state (see the documentation on LR435 here). That committee plans to look into liability, restoration of property, and regulatory oversight.
Nebraska State Senator Tony Fulton apparently shares concerns that Keystone XL could be bad for his state. Even Governor Dave Heineman is worried about Keystone XL's environmental impacts, although he thinks (erroneously) that Nebraska may lack the authority to impose its own environmental regulations over federal rules. (Where there's a will, there's a way, Gov. Heineman!)
This growing opposition comes on the heels of a new report from Plains Justice that finds TransCanada isn't putting enough resources into pipeline emergency response here on the Plains. According to Plains Justice, in all of Nebraska and the Dakotas, TransCanada has in place "one spill response trailer and one boom trailer that together contain 5,000 feet of boom, two skimmers, two portable tanks, and a variety of hand tools and equipment. It has also provided a 14 ft. and 18 ft. boat." Compare that to the Enbridge spill near Kalamazoo, Michigan, last summer. In response to a rupture in a 30-inch oil pipeline, same size as Keystone I and smaller than the 36-inch Keystone XL, Enbridge deployed "over 2,000 personnel, over 150,000 feet (28 miles) of boom, 175 heavy spill response trucks, 43 boats, and 48 oil skimmers." Given those numbers, TransCanada looks woefully underprepared to respond to a pipeline spill here on our prairie.
Nebraska lawmakers are at least willing to ask Big Foreign Oil some hard questions. It's too bad South Dakota lawmakers won't show similar moxie:
- Governor-Elect Dennis Daugaard has defended big tax rebates for the construction of TransCanada's pipelines, rebates that neither Nebraska nor North Dakota offer.
- State Senator and Majority Leader Russell Olson thinks those rebates and those pipelines are wonderful. He has consistently resisted efforts to impose pipeline taxes to establish environmental clean-up funds. Maybe Rep.-Elect Patricia Stricherz can straighten him out.
- Neither Senator John Thune (of course not) nor Senator Tim Johnson (Tim! You're our only hope!) signed on to a letter from eleven fellow senators criticizing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her apparent pro-pipeline bias.
- I can't find any public comment on Keystone XL from Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin or Rep. Elect Kristi Noem.
Is South Dakota so desperate for economic development that we can't ask a foreign oil corporation to take sufficient precautions to prepare for the inevitable accidents on its pipeline? Nebraska evidently doesn't suffer this spinelessness; South Dakota should find its voice and join the calls to put our environmental and economic well-being above TransCanada's drive for maximum profit.