Nebraska residents have had their say, now the State Department will return to Washington to consider whether TransCanada will receive a presidential permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
State Department officials heard around eight hours of testimony in Lincoln Tuesday. They held their second public hearing in Nebraska on Thursday at West Holt High School in Atkinson, located in the Sand Hills. That location is significant, because it is proposal to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline through the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer that has drawn strong opposition in Nebraska.
As with the public hearing in Lincoln, testimony in Atkinson centered on conflict between the economic potential of the pipeline against concerns it could despoil the environment.
About 800 people gathered in the high school auditorium in Atkinson to express their views. Supporters say the pipeline will create jobs and lessen the country’s dependence on oil from less than friendly countries. Opponents expressed concern about whether leaks in the pipeline would contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer and ruin drinking water. Another criticism has come from landowners worried that TransCanada will use eminent domain to seize property without proper compensation.
The final environmental impact study conducted for the State Department concluded it isn’t likely the pipeline will contaminate the Sand Hills or the Ogallala Aquifer. It contrasted an earlier study by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor who questioned whether TransCanada was being overly optimistic about the safety of the pipeline and how quickly it could respond to a leak.
TransCanada proposes building a $7 billion pipeline 1,700 miles from western Canada to the Gulf Coast in Texas. It would carry crude oil derived from tar sands in Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast.
Mark Moser, KBRX, contributed to this report.
AUDIO: Mark Moser, KBRX, O’Neill reports on State Department Atkinson hearing [:40 mp3]