On November 6, 2015, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline since it would not be in the national interest to allow it to be built. The decision is a big win for wildlife, from the ancient Boreal forests of Canada to the Sandhills and rivers of Nebraska.
Congratulations, and thanks to all who helped win this victory!
TransCanada, a large Canadian corporation, had proposed building a large pipeline through Nebraska that would carry diluted bitumen from the tar sands region of Alberta to refineries and export facilities on the Gulf Coast.
In 2010, Nebraska Wildlife Federation attended the first public meetings held by the US State Department in Nebraska on the proposed project. The original route would have cut through the heart of the fragile Nebraska Sandhills, and over and through the Ogallala Aquifer.
After carefully studying the proposal and consulting with experts, Nebraska Wildlife Federation was one of the first groups in Nebraska to come out in opposition to the pipeline. The risks to the Ogallala Aquifer and Nebraska rivers, the destruction of Boreal forests in Canada destroyed to process the tar sands, the impacts on climate change, the dangers for migrating birds, the corporation’s lack of respect for local ranchers and Indian Tribes – for a host of reasons, this was the wrong project in the wrong place.
We joined with other Nebraska organizations like the Nebraska Farmers Union, Bold Nebraska, Sierra Club, Audubon Nebraska, and the League of Women Voters of Nebraska, along with Indian Tribes, local ranchers and other individuals to oppose the pipeline.
During a Special Session of the Legislature in November, 2011, that work paid off. The Legislature passed legislation to give the Public Service Commission authority to decide the route of new pipelines. TransCanada agreed to change the proposed route of the pipeline. The new route was an improvement over the original route, but still cut through fragile, sandy soils on the edge of the Sandhills and would have still put parts of the Ogallala Aquifer at risk.
Nebraska’s Legislature then passed a special law, attempting to allow the Governor, rather than the Public Service Commission, to approve a route. Former Governor Dave Heineman gave his approval, but the legislation was challenged in court by landowners and our allies.
Eventually, TransCanada gave up the court fight and announced it would ask the Nebraska Public Service Commission to approve a route. After the US State Department announced its decision to reject the federal permit application, TransCanada withdrew its application with the Nebraska Public Service Commission, but company officials said they still hope to build the pipeline.
The decision by the President and US State Department should settle the issue.
In our view, President Obama made the right decision.
The bottom line is that America needs to move away from fossil fuels, especially dirty fuels like tar sands oil, and towards clean energy solutions that include energy efficiency, wind, solar, and biomass energy. The Keystone XL pipeline was the wrong direction for America and for Nebraska.