With the Nebraska Public Service Commission’s recent decision to approve the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska — albeit on a different route than what TransCanada preferred — opponents of the pipeline are adjusting their strategies as well.
Those strategic changes were on display Thursday afternoon when Bold Nebraska and the Nebraska Easement Action Team (NEAT) held a community meeting at Valentino’s in Norfolk.
“I think what’s happening is there’s a whole new group of landowners that did not think that they would be impacted at all,” said Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska’s founder. “Now they realize that they’re in the crosshairs of this maximum-capacity risky pipeline. We’re seeing a lot of energy from landowners wanting to get information from both sides.
“I also think because of the decision that the Public Service Commission gave, there is now a legal question on whether or not they even have a legal route.”
Kleeb said that unity among landowners is important in the face of Keystone XL.
“The only reason we think we’ve been able to stop Keystone for so many years is because the landowners were unified that they didn’t want the pipeline — and if they were going to get the pipeline, they were going to negotiate together as a team to get the best terms,” Kleeb said. “That’s the same thing here — we know that some of the landowners may want it and some do not, but for us in a worst-case scenario, we want to make sure that the landowners’ rights are protected as much as possible.”
Brian Jorde, an attorney who works for NEAT, echoed Kleeb’s sentiments. He added that NEAT is not necessarily opposed to the pipeline but does share Bold Nebraska’s concerns for landowners along the proposed route of the pipeline.
“That means we want to have a collection of landowners together in one coalition, negotiating together to get the best terms if this project comes through,” Jorde said. “if some of those people also happen to be against the pipeline, that’s for them to decide. NEAT is simply pro-landowners, protecting property rights.”
One potential wild card on the pipeline issue is that TransCanada — the company that wants to build Keystone XL — might decide to put the pipeline on hold.
“That is a real possibility,” Kleeb said. “I actually think that that is what they’ll do, because they’ll essentially protect themselves from having a ‘loss.’ If that happens, our Legislature better get their act together and put some laws in place that say if a pipeline company does not act on their permit and easements within (a certain) amount of years, that that easement goes back to the landowner.
“Otherwise, the landowners that have easements — they’re literally in a holding pattern. They can’t build new buildings and they can’t put water lines in, so it is a huge issue.”
Not surprisingly, Kleeb said she believes that a decision to put the pipeline on hold does not bring an end to the issue.
“We have real laws that we’ve got to change,” Kleeb said. “There are so many really bad laws — or no laws — in place to protect people’s property rights when all these different scenarios come up that we’ve never had to deal with, because we’re not a pipeline state. We’re behind the eight-ball on that.”