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NEWS: Harper’s lobbying in Nebraska for KXL appears to have failed

Keystone XL would cross the Sand Hills, which cover part of the Ogallala aquifer

Keystone XL would cross the Sand Hills, which cover part of the Ogallala aquifer

The Globe and Mail reports, “Nebraska’s governor (Republican Dave Heineman) has ordered a special session of the state legislature (on November 1) to examine potential new oil pipeline rules, a reversal of course that opens the possibility of substantial delays to the controversial Keystone XL project. …(The session) would ‘determine if siting legislation can be crafted and passed for pipeline routing in Nebraska’. (Such a rule) would give the state the power to approve or deny the pipeline’s intended path. …If passed, it will present the most formidable obstacle to the Keystone XL project to date. …If the state succeeds in ordering a new route, it would force TransCanada to obtain new environmental approvals. That could take two or three years, and would add to the cost of the project.”

“The pipeline has set off a loud debate in Nebraska, where it would cross both the important Ogallala aquifer and the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills regions, which covers part of the underground water reservoir.” State Senator Ken Haar (the chief champion of siting legislation) says, “We think we’re almost there and we can have a siting law in place before Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton gives the okay to cross the border. …The majority of Nebraskans say you shouldn’t put it through the Sand Hills and over our most precious water supply. And we think the majority of senators will be there, too.”

With this news, it would appear that the Harper government and TransCanada have failed with its intensive lobbying in Nebraska for the pipeline. In mid-October, the Globe and Mail reported, “(Last week), Canada’s Ambassador to the US, Gary Doer, travelled to Lincoln, Neb., to personally meet with Governor Dave Heineman. The Canadian Consul-General in Minneapolis, who covers Nebraska, has visited the state a half dozen times in the past year. TransCanada chief executive officer Russ Girling has personally met, on multiple occasions, Gov. Heineman and the state’s U.S. senators. TransCanada has plastered the state with advertising, including a sponsorship of its revered Huskers college football team.”

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow says, “Opposition to Keystone is growing in the United States with the greatest concern being for the safety of the Ogallala, a closed and overworked aquifer. One bad spill and the aquifer could be severely damaged putting the food supply and livelihoods of millions of Americans in jeopardy. Tar sands mining has destroyed much of Alberta’s water table and will put the fragile Ogallala Aquifer, the world’s largest known aquifer, in peril. We join with the millions of Americans who oppose the expansion of this deadly industry.”

On August 31, Barlow joined with representatives of the Indigenous Environmental Network and Greenpeace Canada to deliver a letter addressed to Doer demanding an end to his lobbying in favour of the pipeline. That letter stated, “Communities living along the path of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline have raised strong concerns about threats to their air, water and land. The pipeline will cross the Ogallala aquifer, one of the most important reserves of freshwater in the world. Given TransCanada’s track record of pipeline failures, Canada must take responsibility for preventing further ecological damage. We respectfully ask the Canadian government to cease lobbying for the Keystone XL Pipeline and instead turn efforts to addressing the serious social and environmental impacts of the tar sands.”

Barlow is also the chairperson of the US-based group Food & Water Watch. To read a March 2011 statement of concern about the pipeline and the Ogallala aquifer by Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter, please go to http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/pressreleases/approval-of-keystone-xl-pipeline-is-risk-depleted-aquifer-can%E2%80%99t-afford/.

Take Action! Nebraska’s Legislature is unicameral (a single-chamber), non-partisan and has just 49 members, usually referred to as senators. Those 49 senators – and their e-mail addresses – are listed at http://nebraskalegislature.gov/senators/senator_list.php. We hope to be able to compile their e-mail addresses, develop a draft message, and enable you to easily contact them before November 1 asking them to support at least the call for a new route, but preferably to reject Keystone XL.