Put politics aside to protect the Ogallala Aquifer

Friday, September 2, 2011

Nebraska Republicans aren't known for opposing big business, so it is noteworthy that Gov. Dave Heineman called on President Obama to deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

The line would carry heavy, gunky Canadian tar-sands oil to refineries in Oklahoma or Illinois and eventually to Texas.

The company building the pipeline, which has gotten Nebraska politicians in hot water with its campaign contributions, already operates the Keystone 1 pipeline, but it skirts the Ogallala Aquifer's east edge on the way through the state.

As Heineman points out, 254 miles of the pipeline would lie directly on top of the Great Plains' biggest resource, an underground reservoir of fresh water that provides water to more than 8.5 million acres of cropland through 92,685 registered, active irrigation wells.

The move puts Heineman in league with senator and former governor Ben Nelson, who blocked the forcing of a low-level nuclear waste dump on the Cornhusker state, and former governor and senator Bob Kerrey, who sent state troopers to the border to block the transfer of high-level nuclear fuel through the state.

No action a governor takes is without political implications, however, and this one is no different.

Sen. Ben Nelson responded by telling the political blog, Nebraska Watchdog, that "what the governor is suggesting is illegal. The state makes the routing decisions. The governor needs to stop playing politics and decide where he wants the pipeline route to be."

Nelson and other critics point out that the final Environmental Impact Statement released by the U.S. State Department includes the following: "Individual states have the legal authority to approve petroleum pipeline construction in their states, including selecting the routes for such pipelines. Different states have made different choices in how or whether to exercise that authority. Some states, such as Montana, have chosen to grant the authority to a state agency to approve pipeline routes through that state. Other states, such as Nebraska, have chosen not to grant any state agency such authority."

Heineman told the same blog, "I don't have any doubts (on) this one. There is no regulatory process in place on the State of Nebraska that allows me to make that decision." He's resisted calls to call the Legislature into session to deal with the issue.

Whatever the process, now is the time to protect this vital resource. And, judging from the record of the Keystone 1, which critics say was built with inferior foreign pipe, such measures are definitely warranted.

Since the Keystone 1 pipeline began operation in June 2010, it has had 12 spills. Some of them were small; a couple of gallons at Carpenter, five gallons at Freeman, both in South Dakota; but there was also 50 barrels -- 2,100 gallons -- spilled in Bendena, Kansas, and 500 barrels, 21,000 gallons, in Brampton, North Dakota.

McCook residents know how far a little oil can go -- we had to abandon a four million gallon water storage tank because of a long-term diesel leak from the railroad, and there have been numerous leaks along B Street and elsewhere from rusting underground fuel tanks at old gas stations.

The state's leadership needs to put politics aside and find a way to ensure no oil finds its way into the Ogallala Aquifer.

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  • Sure, let's choose the alternate route that is much longer, costlier, and provides even more risk of spills! There is no such thing as risk-free energy production and transportation -- not even via the expensive and failed solar and wind methods.

    The Gazette's Jane Kleeb "greenies" would rather have the Canadian oil and jobs sent to British Columbia and then sold to the Chinese and Japanese. Better yet, let's just import more oil from the America haters in the Middle East so we can fund their genocides and Jihad.

    You, are the same bunch that gave us Ben "Cornhusker Kickback" Nelson, got a pork-barrel airport in his name, and then even had the gall to put up a statue in tribute to him...

    -- Posted by 9th ID on Fri, Sep 2, 2011, at 3:06 PM
  • well said 9th id. these people set around and complain about jobs and energy cost and when a opportunity like this comes up they go stupid. said, very said:(

    -- Posted by remington81 on Fri, Sep 2, 2011, at 4:47 PM
  • Another case of "Junk Science" like man causing climate change! The pipeline will have no affect on the Ogallala Aquifer. Water moves East and South. Many aquitards are underneath the pipeline that will restrict flow. Ask Goeke from UNL. I trust his judgement not Ben Nelson's (think ObamaCare). We need this oil and the jobs it creates. Politians are only worried about being re-elected and not what is best for US! Ben Nelson needs to go!

    -- Posted by Online on Sat, Sep 3, 2011, at 1:10 PM
  • Even once conservative Gov. Heineman caved to these enviro-whackos who stop progress, kill jobs to "save" minnows and beetles, but don't bat an eye when killing an unborn baby. Now, Nebraskans not only have to contend with the likes of Socialist Ben Nelson, but also with a lame-duck governor who has even come out in support of RINO Mitt Romney. 2012 can't come soon enough...

    -- Posted by 9th ID on Sat, Sep 3, 2011, at 6:53 PM
  • It will be interesting to see how this plays out for Nebraska.

    In both the 111th Congress and this Session of the 112th Congress, legislation has been introduced addressing a proposed Biofuels pipeline distribution system. The latest version is called the "Biofuels Market Expansion Act of 2011", S. 187. Previous versions of this Bill set aside $5 billion in Federal Funds for 90% loan guarantees to aid in the design and construction of the project.

    The most current version does not set a limit on Federal Funds but does reduce the loan guarantee to 80%.


    Since a good portion of the Biofuel sources are grown in Nebraska, it will involve a substantial amount of pipeline construction to tie everything together.

    If the state goes against the Federal Governments decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline, can we realistically expect to turn around and ask for Federal loan guarantees for the construction of the Biofuels pipeline distribution system? Whatever environmental criteria that was used to deny the Keystone XL could also be used to deny the Biofuels pipeline.

    Something to think about.

    -- Posted by Geezer on Sun, Sep 4, 2011, at 9:45 PM
  • One wishes such experts as 9th ID would have listed the risks associated with wind and solar generation, especially those risks that involve spreading a thick almost tar-like hydrocarbon all over the landscape.It certainly would have given the argument more weight if we could have been apprised of those risks so as to compare to the possible rupture of a heated pipeline onto an irreplaceable landscape above the principal source of water for most of this region.

    -- Posted by davis_x_machina on Mon, Sep 5, 2011, at 7:41 AM
  • My, my 9th, your hatred of Ben Nelson must be fogging up your glasses.

    You say the longer route will hurt the big oil outfits, oh wow, perhaps knock off a few thousand off their record profits? Cry me a river.....

    Let's see, if they use the same route as their other pipeline, they would use more pipe, which would help the pipe making company and their employees. A longer route would mean more materials used, longer employment for the workers, all things that would be good for employees. But heaven forbid we don't want big oil's profits to be a little bit smaller, they'll write it off anyway.

    Perhaps a 2nd pipeline adjacent to the 1st one would mean faster response to any possible leaks since I presume they have people already positioned to respond to leaks.

    Guess you didn't really read the editorial either. Heiny didn't cave in, he only gave lip service, the letter he sent doesn't mean anything, unless he has the gonads to back it up with action to stop the pipeline from going across the aquifer.

    Just the other day, the Lincoln station had 2 different "experts" comment on the pipeline. One of them says it is dangerous and the other states your position, so who is correct?

    I'm not ready to take a chance with the water source for thousands of people, and thousands of farmers that use aquifer water. Move the pipeline route, let the big oil boys pay for the extra miles of pipeline, and avoid any chance of a spill that could pollute the aquifer. Big oil will only write off the extra expense on their taxes, or just raise gas another nickle or dime just like our McCook oil cartel does anyway.

    -- Posted by goarmy67 on Mon, Sep 5, 2011, at 2:17 PM
  • Wandering70, interesting you'd call someone out for disagreeing with someone considering your history. You are known to use the term "teabaggers" with saliva dripping from your chin in hatred. Tough to take you seriously.

    -- Posted by speak-e-z on Tue, Sep 6, 2011, at 10:59 AM
  • I am certain that they must have ways of accomplishing this feat, but having lived in sandhills as a youth, I have to wonder how they bury a pipe that big, in ground that has the water table at ground level. Have you ever tried to dig in sand that is saturated? You have to displace a tremendous amount of sand to ever get a trench. Still, not even caring whether or not there is a fault in the pipe, how do they reclaim that much fragile ground? Anyone that got to watch the fiasco of re-seeding the stretch of sand from the Golf Ball to the north several years ago after road construction might be lead to think, " and this was only 10 miles or so? And now you want to tear up a hundred miles or better?" Why not work to create a refinery here in the Midwest? Put it on UP and BNSF.

    However, on a related note that might help with any spill, if we gather up all of the bales of hay that the Texans are not capable of hauling from one state to another, that are scattered from North Dakota to Mexico, we could sop up a lot of oil. It reminds me of Hansel and Gretel, just follow the hundreds of bales in the ditch and this time it leads you to Rick Perry.

    -- Posted by hulapopper on Thu, Sep 8, 2011, at 8:45 PM
  • Well speaky, don't hate em, just hate what they stand for, can't hate someone for being dumb, need to feel sorry for dumb.

    For a take on that Bruce Willis film with the little kid.

    I see dumb people, they're everywhere. They walk around like everyone else. They don't even know they're dumb.

    -- Posted by goarmy67 on Sun, Sep 11, 2011, at 5:20 PM
  • Take the XL Tar Sands tour:http://vimeo.com/27902739

    -- Posted by coffae1 on Sun, Sep 11, 2011, at 7:11 PM
  • I am certainly not saying that I am immune to it, but its a rather condescending POV you are taking. Its certainly your opinion, but it doesn't make you smart, and them dumb. Maybe you're one of the people in the film...dumb like everyone else.

    -- Posted by speak-e-z on Mon, Sep 12, 2011, at 7:52 AM
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