Sierra Club
Sierra Club Press Release

To: Editorial Boards, Reporters and Columnists

Contact: Eddie Scher, 415-977-5758

Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline – The Nebraska Fight Continues

Yesterday the Nebraska Legislature yesterday passed LB 1161 to rubber stamp an undetermined route through the state for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and grant TransCanada the authority to use imminent domain to forcibly take Nebraskan’s land.

The fact is the full Keystone XL pipeline remains dead.  Even the most ill-conceived piece of TransCanada-backed legislation can’t change this status.

Nebraskans and indeed Americans from all 50 states will continue to fight to stop this dangerous, unnecessary tar sands pipeline.

What happened in the Nebraska Legislature yesterday speaks to broader issues concerning TransCanada’s undue influence, public review, transparency, and legality.

LB 1161, the bill passed:

  • Grants the authority to take land from Nebraska landowners to TransCanada, a private foreign corporation with a record of abusing eminent domain authority;
  • Undermines safety reviews and bars opportunities for public review of the route;
  • Sacrifices its public process on the altar of TransCanada’s tar sands pipeline; and
  • Guts the Public Service Commission process adopted during the special session.

“Yesterday the Legislature ignored the will of their constituents, but you can count on Nebraskans to continue to fight to protect their land, water and their children’s future,” said Ken Winston, Nebraska Sierra Club Policy Advocate. “Since yesterday I’ve heard from many Nebraskans, from ranchers and farmers and students to cookie-making grandmothers, whose resolve to fight TransCanada’s risky pipeline remains unshaken.”

Nebraskans’ concerns about TransCanada’s lack of integrity are well-founded.  For a better sense of TransCanada constant change of message depending on the situation, and the many ways that LB 1161 sacrifices Nebraska’s landowners and waters for the interests of a foreign corporation, please review the timeline below:

Summer 2010: TransCanada threatens to use eminent domain against Nebraska landowners.

August 2010: U.S. Senator Mike Johanns says the pipeline shouldn’t go through the Sandhills, and sends letter to TransCanada telling them not to threaten landowners with eminent domain.

February 2011: TransCanada executive testifies before Nebraska Legislature that they “had no idea” that eminent domain threats were being used and promises that it won’t happen again.

April 2011: Nebraska landowners receive letters from TransCanada threatening the use of eminent domain if they don’t sign the rights to easements within 30 days.

August 2011: More than 700 people rally around the Governor’s mansion in opposition to the pipeline.

August 31, 2011: Governor Heineman sends letter to Secretary of State Clinton requesting DENIAL of the permit because the pipeline would put the Ogallala aquifer at risk.

September 2011: More than 1,000 people appear in opposition to pipeline at State Department hearing in Lincoln. More than 1,000 also appear in opposition to the pipeline at hearing in Atkinson. 

October 2011: TransCanada says it would be impossible to move the pipeline out of the Sandhills.

November 10, 2011: State Department says the process needs to be delayed in order to further examine proposed route through the Sandhills.

November 14, 2011: TransCanada decides that it is possible to change the route after all, agrees to move the pipeline out of the Sandhills.

October 2011: TransCanada offers to put up $100 million dollar bond if the State doesn’t call a special session.

November 2011: TransCanada officials oppose legislation requiring them to post a bond.

November 22, 2011: Legislature passes two bills in special session: one that would allow TC expedited review by Nebraska DEQ for their pending application. The second bill would require all subsequent pipeline applications to be subject to a process through the Public Service Commission.

December 2, 2011: TransCanada representative testifies before the House Energy Committee that an expedited approval process is needed, in spite of the fact they had just received one from the State of Nebraska.

End of December 2011: U.S. Congress attaches expedited process to payroll tax bill.

January 2012: TransCanada says they have determined a route and will make it public soon.

January 18, 2012: President Obama denies the permit, largely because the route through Nebraska had yet to be determined.

January 19, 2012: LB 1161 is introduced. It is a 3 page bill. It would revive the DEQ process to determine a route and give TransCanada special eminent domain authority.

February 16, 2012: TransCanada supports LB 1161 (in contrast to their position in October 2011 that routing legislation was unconstitutional). They are the only supporters. Nebraska Sierra Club provides an opinion that it is unconstitutional special legislation.

April 5, 2012:  Between introduction and adoption of the language that became the final version, 10 substantially different drafts are proposed. The final draft is revealed is revealed just before the introducer stands to deliver the opening remarks. No one has seen the amendment before this time. New subjects on issues of major importance usually receive a public hearing. There is no opportunity for examination or comment from the public.

April 11, 2012: Legislature approves LB 1161. Final version allows TransCanada to use eminent domain upon approval of route by the Governor. Governor has said he supports the pipeline even though it will go over the aquifer, in contrast to his statement opposing the pipeline in August 2011.

To learn more about the state of play regarding Keystone XL or to book experts, advocates and landowners, contact:

Ken Winston, Sierra Club 402-212-3737

Jane Kleeb, BOLD Nebraska or 402-705-3622