PAGE — Since you found it OK to name me in your Oct. 9 editorial, I find it fitting that I reply, particularly, since in the formation of your opinion piece, you never saw fit to interview the very person you quote. Had you taken the time and effort to do your job — that is, to get the facts — you would see that several of the foundational points upon which you build your argument dissolve under scrutiny.
1. You claim TransCanada has engaged in “negotiation” and “generous terms.” Fact: We landowners have tried negotiation for 10-plus years. Our core demands include such seemingly reasonable requests as removal of their equipment at the end of the project, just as wind turbine project developers offer in standard contracts with landowners. Instead, TransCanada will leave a degrading pipeline in our soil. Additionally, landowners need freedom from liability in the event of pipeline spills and ideally bonded insurance from pipeline companies to cover catastrophic tarsands spill cleanup like the Kalamazoo River in Michigan (In 2010, 1 million gallons spilled; it’s still not cleaned up, probably never will be completely, and has to date cost over $1.2 billion). These are reasonable requirements and logical starting points. TransCanada refused both. Their policy is to dictate terms to Nebraska families. Refusal of their terms results in fear and intimidation. This is not “negotiation.” As I told the Omaha World-Herald’s Paul Hammel when he called me for comment, at least half of the “payment” TransCanada is offering is actually compensation for our loss: it’s what we’re going to lose in crops; it’s what we’re going to lose in ability to irrigate, and from the company’s failure to restore our land to the state they found it in.
2. You claim the pipeline carries “crude oil” and is for the “public interest.” Fact: The pipeline does not carry “crude oil” as you claim. It is tarsands. Your seeming ignorance of this key fact discredits the rest of your entire argument. They are dramatically different products. The tarsands that would be potentially carried in the KXL pipeline starts in Alberta, Canada, and is then shipped across the heartland to Gulf Coast refineries for export to the foreign market — mostly China. That fact challenges the fundamental claim of “public interest.” Did you also know the refinery to which KXL’s tarsands would be pumped is owned 100% by Saudi Arabia? Testimony during the 2017 Public Service Commission hearings proved two key points. The KXL pipeline delivers no product to the state of Nebraska; tarsands are shipped to a foreign market. They would simply be pumped through our state, endangering our farmland and precious Ogallala aquifer. Furthermore, depressed land values where this pipeline is routed would actually result — as proven during the PSC hearings — in a reduction in property tax revenue amounting to millions of dollars lost to the state over the life of the project. This is not in the public interest.
3. You claim there will be an “uninterrupted use of land” by TransCanada, and that the majority of landowners have signed. Fact: You clearly have not read the easement terms being shoved down landowners’ throats. If you had, and you knew farming and ranching, you would find significant concerns for a landowner. While many landowners have signed contracts with TransCanada, have you done any demographic study of who did, and why? Are they absentee landowners? It’s a fact that many are. Are they elderly and have they felt intimidated and threatened? Many would assuredly reply “yes.” And who exactly has refused to sign? Many of us are multi-generation landowners bound to the land by our family heritage and committed to handing our inheritance over to the next generation in even better shape that we found it. If after 10 years of study of all aspects of this project; if after attending every single public hearing and testifying at many; if after family discussion and much prayer, we determine this is not in our best interest, in our children’s best interest, in our state’s best interest — aren’t we morally obligated to stand up for what we believe?
Next time you want to take a stab at me for protecting the land, water, and my family’s livelihood, I’d appreciate a basic journalist’s courtesy to pick up the phone and talk to me.