Lawyers clash over details of proposed Keystone XL route

Judge Karen Flowers presides over the Public Service Commission hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline (NTV News)

The future of the Keystone XL pipeline now rests with a five-member panel, who must determine if it is in the public interest.

Dave Domina, attorney for concerned landowners made it clear where they stand.

“I don't want future generations of Nebraskans to clean this pipe up and take it out,” he said near the onset of a weeklong hearing.

It ranged from finger pointing, to minor point of law.

TransCanada officials took the stand, answering questions about their proposed $8 pipeline.

Tony Palmer, president of a TransCanada subsidiary said, “Will the pipeline provide service for many decades, yes it will.”

Domina grilled officials from Canadian pipeline company.

“One of the dimensions you want approved is The right to own this route in perpetuity, true?”

Palmer responded, “Have an easement for this route, yes sir.”

“In perpetuity?” Domina responded.

Palmer replied, “Yes sir.”

The company says it will create construction jobs, pay taxes, and meet energy needs.

Self-proclaimed pipeline fighters have long disputed that.

Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska said, “Giving away eminent domain rights to a foreign corporation for a pipeline that might not ever be built is a risky proposition for Nebraska's public interest.”

Back in 2011, the legislature gave the Public Service Commission say over pipeline routes, but specifically said safety is not part of these hearings.

“We're not going to go further into risks or impacts,” Retired Judge Karen Flowers scolded Domina.

And while there’s no public testimony during these hearings, there have been several opportunities to speak.

Michael Whatley of the Consumer Energy Alliance, a pro-pipeline group said, “I think the commission itself has done a good job of having a transparent opportunity for public to weigh in over course of public hearings and a chance to talk about technical aspects here to understand the pipeline before they make their decision.”

The hearing is slow going; There are five teams of lawyers, and countless objections.

For landowners, it’s a chance to question TransCanada on the record.

And for pipeline supporters, they say it’s about showing years of effort that have gone into what they call the safest pipeline ever designed.

TransCanada said it will not seek state incentives. That was one of the revelations on Monday.

Landowners asked if they will apply under the Nebraska Advantage Act, and the company said no.

In addition, TransCanada specifically said it will not transport water or natural gas through the pipeline.

Hearings are scheduled from 9 to 9 each day through Friday.

The Public Service Commission will make a decision at a later date.

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