Thursday, April 20, 2017

Nebraska farmers look to derail Keystone XL pipeline by arguing it threatens state's farmland

Canadian Press graphic
About 90 Nebraska landowners, most of them farmers and ranchers, are taking a last stand to stop the Keystone XL pipeline from going through the state, Valerie Volcovici reports for Reuters. That has put the fate of the pipeline in the hands of an obscure state regulatory board, the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

The group fighting the pipeline is "fine-tuning an economic argument it hopes will resonate better in this politically conservative state than the environmental concerns that dominated the successful push to block Keystone under former President Obama," Volcovici writes. Backed by conservation groups, they "plan to cast the project as a threat to prime farming and grazing lands—vital to Nebraska's economy—and a foreign company's attempt to seize American private property. They contend the pipeline will provide mainly temporary jobs that will vanish once construction ends, and limited tax revenues that will decline over time."

They aren't getting much support from government officials, Volcovici reports. Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, most of the state’s lawmakers, its labor unions and Chamber of Commerce all support the pipeline.

"TransCanada has route approval in all of the U.S. states the line will cross except Nebraska, where the company says it has been unable to negotiate easements with landowners on about 9 percent of the 300-mile crossing," Volcovici reports. "So the dispute now falls to Nebraska's five-member utility commission, an elected board with independent authority over TransCanada’s proposed route. The commission has scheduled a public hearing in May, along with a week of testimony by pipeline supporters and opponents in August. Members face a deadline set by state law to take a vote by November."

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