Decisions were not made, but opinions heard when 90 speakers gathered in front of the Public Service Commission to share their thoughts on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route on Wednesday in O’Neill.
After more than four years of debate on the KXL pipeline that will carry diluted bitumen down from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast, a milestone was reached for both Keystone pipeline supporters and fighters.
Men, women and children each shared their opinion when O’Neill hosted one of several Public Service Commission hearings to determine if the route was in the public’s best interest. The route is currently proposed to go through many counties in Nebraska including Holt, Antelope and Boone counties.
While the Commission does not approve the pipeline, they do determine if the route chosen is appropriate. The Siting Act prohibits the Commission from evaluating safety considerations, but does require them to consider if the pipeline has complied with all laws, the potential impact on natural resources, economic and social impacts, feasibility for the route and the views of the public.
The PSC Public Information Coordinator, Deb Collins, said the ultimate goal for the Commission is to follow the rules and make a decision based upon the application before them.
The Jason and Monica Buss family traveled from Central City to have a chance to speak their opinion on the pipeline. Boldly joining her dad at the podium in front of the Commission was their 9-year-old daughter, Julia, who shared her concerns to the board of concerns on how her favorite pastime of playing in the Platte River could be threatened if a potential leak were to ruin this fresh water source.
“We grew up playing in the river and for them to play in those rivers and not have to worry about the water they’re drinking is great,” said Jason Buss. “You can’t be thinking about this year’s property taxes or even the next 10 years, you have to think about when my daughter comes back and she’ll have to have [the pipeline] to deal with as well.”
His wife, Monica, also spoke on the issue expressing concerns to the Commission about protecting future generations.
Jason said, “I oppose the pipeline for my kids, for my family, for the rivers and for the future of our children. My daughter was just telling me the first few lyrics to ‘Beautiful Nebraska’. ‘Beautiful Nebraska, peaceful prairie land. Laced with many rivers and the hills of the sand.’ ”
But not all landowners were against the pipeline. Emily Singer, a fourth generation Nebraskan spoke of the economic benefits the pipeline would have on the state.
“I love this state. I have tremendous admiration for the landowners and farmers who work it. My grandfather is one of them and I still support the pipeline. The two are not mutually exclusive,” she said.
Judith Thorman, Director of the Central Region for the American Petroleum Institute, presented her company's position on the issue. The API represents all facets of the oil and natural gas companies on behalf of the National Trade Organization.
“We believe the Keystone pipeline project will serve the citizens of Nebraska and American people in three important ways: by increasing national energy security, by enhancing a safe and secure transportation network and by providing economic benefits including jobs and tax resources.”
Sherry Loske, a Boone County farmer, urged the Commission to, “move it to the current Keystone One route,” if they would not deny the permit for the proposed route.
The Keystone One pipeline is currently located in Northeast Nebraska stretching from the Canadian border to Illinois oil refineries. Fifty-foot easement agreements are purchased for this pipeline, and it currently carries around 530,000 barrels per day compared to the 830,000 barrels proposed for the Keystone XL which is projected to follow a different route.
Mark Zimmerer, President of the Chamber of Commerce of Norfolk, spoke in favor of the pipeline after having seen the impact a pipeline had in Madison County.
“We proactively recruited Transcanada and the Keystone pipeline to bring their face camp in Madison and Norfolk June 2009. Our experience with their organization and employees was extremely positive,” said Zimmerer. “At the end of the day, we experienced a $10 million economic impact in the Norfolk area.”
Still, Paul Theobald, a hog farmer from Foster, told the Commission his concerns for the pipeline.
“I pray, I literally pray, that you’ll do right by us, by your neighbors and by the common people of the state of Nebraska,” he said.
The Commission will hold another hearing in Lincoln on August 7-11. Collins encouraged people to come and share their testimony and evidence of the pipeline. A decision by the PSC will be announced sometime after the hearing either on or before November 23.