Landowners Speak Out Against Keystone Pipeline
The controversial Keystone pipeline faces public scrutiny once again, maybe for the last time. This time, federal officials want to know what Nebraskans think.
"All this land has been in the family for generations," Kevin Graves said of the farm "in the middle," not far from Polk, Bradshaw, and Benedict.
Just steps from this 1876 farmhouse you'll find the latest front in the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline.
Graves says it would be less than the length of a football field away from his home and irrigation well. And he doesn't want any part of it.
"It shouldn't be at all. It's not in the national interest," he said.
Kevin plans to testify Thursday during a U.S. State Department hearing in Grand Island, and so does Terry Van Housen, a crop and livestock producer who refuses to sign a contract with agents of TransCanada.
Van Housen said, "I got 10,000 head feed yard. How am I going to feed cattle if we got oil in our water?"
Terry and Kevin are sharing their story in a media tour organized by those opposing the pipeline, namely Bold Nebraska and Farmers Union.
John Hansen of Farmers Union condemns the pipeline.
"We are simply the unlucky owner of all of the liability when things go wrong," he said.
While Farmers Union and Bold Nebraska have been fighting the pipeline for years, many landowners in this area have been indifferent.
Graves said, "You can drive ten miles either direction and people living right there can't tell you where it's routed. They don't know, don't have an opinion."
The Graves family is new to the cause, since the state forced it to be rerouted in the name of protecting the environment.
Graves said, "That was one of the biggest scams ever perpetrated to reroute it and say we're avoiding the aquifer, avoiding the Sandhills. Still over it, just in a different spot."
Senator Deb Fischer disagrees. She says there's been an exhaustive review and says it's time to build and create jobs.
These landowners don't think anything positive will come from it.
"It's all bad," Van Housen said.
This land tour was organized by Bold Nebraska and is clearly opposed to the pipeline. Other farmers we reached out to say it's a good thing and they want to see it built.
For his part, Gov. Dave Heineman showed his support for the project in a letter to Pres. Obama in January. Heineman said it came down to three things -- energy independence, jobs, and environmental concerns.
And he believes the pipeline satisfies all those conditions.Heineman said the route avoids the environmentally sensitive Sandhills.
And he thinks it's an important source of oil from allies in Canada.
Since it crosses a federal line, the state department must approve.
And Heineman hopes the president will sign off. "He still has the final say and he's indicated sometime in the first quarter he will make a decision whether to approve the international crossing between Canada and America. If he says yes, it'll go forward. If he says no, it won't," Heineman told reporters in January. That time period has come and gone with no decision from the president.
As for the governor, he believes there's minimal environmental impact.
Many local county boards and power districts also support the project, saying it'll generate more taxes and be a big electric customer