As if four years of review hasn’t been enough, the folks at Bold Nebraska, Farmers Union, Sierra Club and others are asking the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) to take an additional 90 days to “conduct further analysis” into the Keystone XL pipeline. The formal request was made last Monday when the groups released its review of the NDEQ draft report on Keystone XL and presented its findings at the public hearing in Albion on Tuesday.
Now, we don’t expect NDEQ’s final review to be presented to Neb. Gov. Dan Heineman until the end of the month, at the earliest, but after four years of intensive review of the pipeline plans, what else is there to uncover? In reading the citizen’s report, it seems that only continued inaccurate claims are left to debate.
Case in point: throughout the report, the groups refer to Keystone XL as a “major tarsands pipeline.” First, as we’ve explained before, crude oil from the oil sands is not “tar.” Tar is a manufactured product, while crude oil from the oil sands, or bitumen, is extracted from the ground. They serve completely different purposes, which is why they have different names.
It’s true: the NDEQ draft report names a number of bitumen-derived substances that will be transported through the pipeline, but the citizens conveniently leave out the fact that the draft report also indicates that conventional light crude oil from the Bakken will travel through KXL as well. The line will provide American oil producers much-needed transportation infrastructure as it will to Canadian producers – approximately 25 percent (65,000 bpd) of production to go on the pipeline will be from the United States.
The groups also press NDEQ to once again evaluate if in fact the new KXL route is avoiding sensitive land that is “at higher risk of contamination,” and requests that the company “rely on science.” James Goecke, a hydrologist who has studied Nebraska’s Sand Hills region for more than 40 years (and relies on science daily), told the Washington Post that people have the wrong impression about the danger a potential pipeline leak would pose to land surrounding KXL. He said people “were concerned that any spill would contaminate and ruin the water in the entire aquifer, and that’s just practically impossible.”
According to the report, 75 percent of Nebraskans feel that KXL should avoid “sensitive natural resources.” Our research found that, based on the Nebraska rural poll conducted in August 2012 (and reports by the Lincoln Journal Star), 65 percent of rural Nebraskans believe the pipeline should indeed avoid the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer; but, moreover, 61 percent rejected the premise that it should not be built at all “because the environmental risks outweigh the economic benefits.”
So if the NDEQ agrees that the reroute avoids the Sand Hills region, as it states in its draft project evaluation, and a majority of Nebraskans who are directly impacted by the construction of the line on their land are in favor of building it, then it seems that what the groups are asking for is clear as mud: more time to rehash the same arguments we’ve heard for four years while thousands of jobs continue to be left on the cutting room floor.