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Nebraska commission hears opinions on Keystone XL pipeline

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NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) – Opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline told the Nebraska Public Service Commission this week that they’re concerned about potential environmental problems from the project, but supporters say such concerns are overblown.

The pipeline is slated to carry about 830,000 barrels of tar sands crude oil through Nebraska every day, the Norfolk Daily News reported.

During a public meeting about the project on Wednesday in Norfolk, opponents said the pipeline would be only a temporary economic gain and a major gamble on the state’s valuable underground water supply. Many opponents said it isn’t a matter of if, but when, the pipeline would leak and cause environmental damage.

South Dakota resident Byron Steskal told the commission a farmer discovered a leak in a pipeline last year.

“TransCanada’s fancy detection system failed,” he said. “Keystone 1 was shut down until July 2, 2016.”

Opponents also urged the commission to require TransCanada, the company seeking permission to construct the XL pipeline, to pay Nebraska an annual fee, which they said the company does for other states along the route.

Supporters said the project is a huge economic opportunity, particularly for rural areas that have been struggling with low commodity prices in agriculture. They said the risk of water contamination is almost nonexistent and that 99.99 percent of oil transported through pipelines arrives safely without any type of incident.

Stanton County emergency manager Sanford Goshorn said county commissioners, local firefighters and rescue unit personnel all believe that TransCanada is excellent to work with. He said TransCanada responds quickly if something of an emergency nature happens with the pipeline.

“That pipeline – the Keystone pipeline – has delivered over 1 billion barrels of oil and there has not been one leak in the state of Nebraska,” said Ron Kaminski, a labor union official from Omaha. “That shows you how good our workers are here in the state of Nebraska and how much they care about the environment.”

About 250 people attended the morning session of the public meeting, which was the third such meeting about the project. During the meeting, 15 of 40 people spoke in favor of the pipeline. The rest were against the project.

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