Keystone XL Pipeline
Nebraska lawmakers hold hearing on proposed pipeline
The disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this year should not make state officials uneasy about a proposed oil pipeline route through the Nebraska Sandhills, a TransCanada official said Wednesday.
But some state lawmakers, experts and residents whose land lies in the pipeline’s path are urging the state not to take any chances.
The Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee met Wednesday with groundwater and geological experts, residents and pipeline officials to discuss the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from Canada through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas.
TransCanada has also proposed connecting from the pipeline to the Bakken oil field in Montana and North Dakota. The proposed path crosses several rivers and the massive underground Ogallala aquifer, which supplies drinking water to about 2 million people in eight states and supports irrigation.
The pipeline system is seen by supporters as a key step toward reducing the nation’s dependence on oil from overseas, but critics argue that a spill could have disastrous effects in the region.
Doug Cobb of Holt County said lawmakers should consider regulations that would require pipeline companies to remove pipes from the ground rather than abandoning them in years to come if the oil dries up or the company goes out of business. The state also needs to protect landowners from liability should an oil leak occur, he said.
No matter how well-constructed, Cobb said, “somewhere down the road, they (the pipelines) will collapse and will leave huge holes in our landscape.”
Another resident, Frank Shipley of Rising City, suggested that TransCanada and other pipeline companies should be required to take extra safety precautions, such as safety liners placed along the pipeline route to try to catch any oil leaks from the pipe.
“Make no mistake — a big blowout could happen,” Shipley said, suggesting that such an event would “gut our country’s agriculture by stopping irrigation wells.”
Some lawmakers also expressed concern about the possibility of pipeline spill.
State Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm asked TransCanada Corp. executive Robert Jones, who is overseeing the Keystone project through Nebraska, if he could see why the massive Gulf spill has led to fears that a pipeline leak is inevitable.
“It’s amazing to me how we can bridge that spill over to this project,” Jones said. “That was an exploratory well in 5,000 feet of water. That hardly applies here.”
Jones insisted that the Keystone XL would be the best and safest pipeline ever built. He also said the multibillion-dollar project would create more than 1,200 jobs in Nebraska and would inject more than $20 billion in new spending into the U.S. economy.
But several groundwater and geology experts expressed concerns about running a large oil pipeline through an area that includes the Ogallala aquifer.
Goeke told lawmakers that there would be a good chance of oil reaching groundwater in the event of a leak in the Sandhills.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln environmental engineer Wayne Woldt told the committee he believed more study of the proposed pipeline path is needed.
“My sense is, we are not well-prepared to deal with a leak, should one occur along the pipeline,” Woldt said.