Keystone Pipeline Hearing Draws Attention

Sep 30, 2011  | Ep0

The Keystone XL pipeline has become one of the nation's most politically charged energy initiatives.  The 1,661-mile oil pipeline would stretch from Canada through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas on to refineries in Oklahoma and Texas.  The plan has raised eyebrows throughout theCornhuskerStatein particular, as a mix of environmental groups and conservative politicians have spoken out against the pumping of Canadian tar sands oil across the Heartland.

Hundreds of Nebraskans flooded a town hall meeting in the capitol city ofLincolnthis week.  Pipeline protestors, including those from agriculture, were strongly represented.

Much of the concern from agricultural circles and environmental groups involves the massive Ogallala aquifer which stretches for hundreds of miles underground inNebraskaand surrounding states.  The rich water resource is the lifeblood for rural communities and the region's center pivot irrigation systems. Critics argue a Keystone pipe leak or spill would devastate the aquifer.  If completed, industry experts believe the Keystone XL could pump more than 800,000 barrels of oil – EVERY DAY.

Pipeline owner, TransCanada argues their technology is well equipped to protect natural resources and could shut down pumping if a future leak were to occur.  Some business leaders at this week's hearing dismissed the environmental concerns and trumpeted the potential economic impact of new construction jobs and lower energy prices.

In a sign of a shifting political landscape for TransCanada and its Keystone pipeline,Nebraska's conservative Republican Governor Dave Heineman has formally come out against the current pipeline plan.  Heineman, a strong proponent of domestic oil and gas development, argues the Ogallala is too important to gamble with and a separate route should be designed.

Despite the protests inNebraska, the Keystone route is largely a federal issue involving the U.S. State Department due to the pipeline's international border crossing.

The Obama Administration's State Department is expected to decide on the plan before the end of the year.

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