In front of a standing-room-only crowd Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Pete Ricketts heard concerns from Holt County residents about everything from the Keystone XL Pipeline to the death penalty.
Rickett said his goal with the town hall meeting was to inform stakeholders of his administrative plans and goals for the upcoming legislative session and get feedback on how the state can improve.
"We have the best place in the world to live, right here in Nebraska," Ricketts said, "and we've got such a great place because we have great people. That's why I decided to be your governor."
Watch the town hall meeting
Some of the governor's goals include tax relief, improving education and "cutting the regulatory red tape."
"Property taxes continues to be the number one issue for Nebraskans," Ricketts said. "We know we have more work to do on that."
One of his biggest concerns lies with the EPA and their regulations on carbon emissions. Rickett said he doesn't believe they are right in forcing the issue in the time frame they are insisting and Nebraska is joining other states in suing them to push back on the "federal overreach."
"The original plan was for us to cut back on our carbon emissions by 26 percent, the final rule came out 40 percent," Ricketts said, "And here's the deal, we can't do that."
After discussing his plans for the state he opened the floor up for questions and comments.
There was much concern from the audience about the Keystone XL Pipeline, which is planning to cross Holt County. Residents are worried about the pipeline leaking and contaminating the ground water.
Ricketts said that all the risks couldn't be factored out and pointed out the that oil is already moving now by rail.
"The pipeline being built will be the safest pipeline ever built in Nebraska," Ricketts said, which led to an immediate uproar from those in attendance.
Audience members disagreed with that statement and a heated debate broke out. One gentleman pointed out that there have been 14 spills in the first year with Keystone. Many were displeased with the fact that they are all but being forced out of their land.
"I equate this to a violent act," one man stated, "XL is trying to force themselves on your property. If you say 'no' its end of discussion. You're supposed to back them up."
Ricketts explained that all of the rights of all the people in the state needed to balance. He also said eminent domain has been used in similar cases.
Another man pointed out that eminent domain only applies to government and not a foreign corporation. Ricketts said they could have the conversation but still see a difference in opinion.
"I think we have a political process at work in the state," Ricketts said.
He said he believes the pipeline will create jobs and help make us less reliant on oil from the Middle East.
Other issues that were brought up were economic development, enhanced 911 systems, funding for mental health and the death penalty. The governor wrapped up his meeting by discussing food stamps and improving entitlement systems.
The meeting concluded on a positive note. Since Wednesday was the governor's birthday, he was presented with presents and the residents serenaded him with a round of "Happy Birthday."