During September of 2013 & July of 2014, I traveled throughout Nebraska and South Dakota exploring the lands atop the Ogalalla Aquifer along various portions of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route, meeting some of the people in its path who are involved in a movement preventing the pipeline from being built by Canadian-based TransCanada corporation.
Opponents of the pipeline believe if the pipeline is constructed and should ever leak, it will have dire consequences on the environment. Farmers, ranchers and tribes rely on the water from the Ogalalla Aquifer, a 174,000 square mile water table atop the region, to grow crops and feed cattle that ultimately have supplied America with its food for centuries.
The effort against the pipeline first began in the Sand Hills near Atkinson, Nebraska with a group called the 'Pipeline Posse' when TransCanada suggested lawsuits & easements to landowners, but has since grown into a larger effort in similar rural communities that are in the proposed pipeline's path throughout Nebraska and in portions of South Dakota. Bold Nebraska, a non-profit organization against construction of the pipeline has fought tirelessly in Nebraska and South Dakota, with Dakota Rural Action, to prevent permitting and legislation that would allow the oil transport.
This 1,179 mile pipeline would carry approximately 830,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude from Alberta's
oil sands to the Gulf Coast. Proponents of the pipeline contend it will create 40,000 jobs in regions that has suffered since the economic downtown in recent past, and will create energy security for America. On January 7, Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota stood on the floor of the senate telling others the pipeline would have "No Significant Environmental Impact," citing a U.S. State Department Environmental Impact Statement.
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled on January 9, that Governor Dave Heinemann has the authority to approve the project's route without review by a state agency, opening the door for President Obama to approve the pipeline unencumbered by pending legislation in Nebraska that has delayed a formal agreement. In South Dakota, TransCanada had originally been awarded a permit for construction in 2010, but state law mandates that it be re-approved if construction does not start within four years. The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission ruled on Tuesday, January 6, that Transcanada would not be required to start the permitting process over, as proposed by environmental and tribal groups fighting against a pipeline on their land.
The U.S. Congress recently approved the project and it now awaits a vote in the U.S. Senate. When approved, President Obama vetoed the bill, after which it was sent back to both houses of Congress for another round of voting.
(Description date 1/25/2015)