KXL hearings continue with questions about alternative route

Paterniano Del Favero
Agosto 9, 2017

"It would ruin 13 years of no-till farming", said Tanderup, a former teacher and a leading member of the anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission must decide by November 23 whether to approve or reject the project, based on evidence presented at hearings that could continue through Friday.

Hoisting a bag of dirt, Antelope County farmer Art Tanderup said he sees no difference between his ground and the nearby area officially recognized as the Nebraska Sandhills, which the Keystone XL is supposed to avoid.

That was in stark contrast to eight representatives of pipeline developer TransCanada who have testified.

Tanderup said he was anxious construction would irreparably disrupt the worms, microorganisms and air pockets he has cultivated in his soil, despite the company's promises to restore the land to its original state.

He said he expected the same with the Keystone XL. "We answered a lot questions", John said. He said you can see a bare streak through an alfalfa field where the pipeline crosses USA 275.

That also didn't match testimony from TransCanada officials, who said they work with landowners to fill in land that has settled with suitable top soil.

Outside of the Cornhusker Marriott Hotel where the hearings are being held, a group of about 50 Native Americans conducted a rally, praying, beating drums and shouting "stand up, fight back".

The orderly protest followed the signing, by the five Indian tribes of Nebraska and the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma, of a treaty opposing the pipeline and tar sands expansion. The Sierra Club said that 150 tribes in the US and Canada have now signed a similar pledge.

Lawyer Brian Jorde is fighting for the pipeline not to be built, but says if it must it should be next to the existing one in eastern Nebraska.

The debate focused on environmental impacts along the route.

The existing Keystone pipeline approved in 2008 also crosses only two major rivers in the state as opposed to the proposed Keystone XL, which would cross five rivers and raises the possibility for more impact on wildlife. Landowner lawyer Dave Domina questioned TransCanada engineer Meera Kothari about how much input TransCanada had from Nebraska state agencies in identifying their preferred route.

"Not really", responded Jon Schmidt, a Florida-based regulatory consultant hired by TransCanada, who said that parallel routing was not a viable option.

By contrast, the Keystone route travels north-south, from a converted natural gas pipeline just across the Canada border, through Nebraska from Cedar County on the north to Steele City.

Unfortunately, there's not another pipeline there to hook up to, Kothari said.

After the signing Tuesday, more than 150 Tribes in the US and Canada, including the Nations all along the KXL route in Alberta, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and now Nebraska, will have committed to standing together to stop Keystone XL and the other three tar sands pipelines: Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline through Minnesota, Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion through British Columbia and TransCanada's Energy East.

But pipeline builder TransCanada defended its proposal to the Nebraska Public Service Commission, arguing that the company's "preferred route" makes the most sense and causes the least amount of disruption.

"That's a challenge for farms and ranches, period", Ridder said.

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