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Some Nebraska Landowners Won't Make Way for Oil Sands Pipeline

TransCanada is offering buyouts—and threats of eminent domain proceedings—to farmers and ranchers

by Elizabeth McGowan

Oct 12, 2010

Editor's Note: In late September, SolveClimate News reporter Elizabeth McGowan traveled to Nebraska to find out more about the Keystone XL pipeline that TransCanada plans to build to carry crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas. This is the sixth in a series. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 here.

HORDVILLE, Neb.—Randy Thompson points with a tanned and well-muscled forearm to one of the hundreds of sturdy cedar fence posts ringing his family’s 400-acre farm in central Nebraska’s Platte River Valley.

“We’ve tried to dig holes in the spring and the posts would just float away,” he explains, laughing at the memory. “The holes fill up because the water table is just three- to four-feet deep. We’ve learned to do our fencing in the fall around here.”

That’s why it mystifies him that TransCanada is proposing to bury a for heavy crude four feet deep through a fragile, stunning and wondrous ecosystem that draws tourists eager to witness the migration of massive numbers of sandhill cranes, nourishes crops in a state where agriculture is king and provides drinking water for millions of Midwesterners.

The Calgary-based oil giant has offered to pay the Thompson family a lump sum somewhere in the thousands of dollars to construct a segment of what’s called the Keystone XL pipeline across an 80-acre portion of the farm where fully ripened feed corn is now on the verge of being harvested. That linear easement would amount to almost four of those 80 acres.

“This is just a big headache we didn’t want,” the 62-year-old says while pointing out his pickup truck window at holes left behind by long-ago gravel miners that are filled with water year-round. “If that pipeline leaks water into our aquifer, we have a full-blown disaster. And it doesn’t have to cross here. TransCanada just selected the most inexpensive and shortest route.”

At least one neighbor signed TransCanada’s voluntary contract almost immediately, claiming that it was impossible to fight a corporate behemoth. Thompson, however, is protective of the crop and cattle farm near Central City—christened the Lazy RT Ranch—that his parents, Richard and Frances, bought in 1975.

“I guess it’s the principle of the whole thing,” Thompson says in a melodic drawl, a blend of his Kansas and Nebraska upbringing. “They come tearing across our state, pay us a few bucks, and we’re supposed to be happy. That got my back up.

“And the more I checked it out, the more I found it was an issue worth fighting for. TransCanada told us we can either deal with their negotiators or deal with their attorneys. I said, ‘Bring it on. For a few thousand dollars, you’re not going to scare us.’”

One Legislator’s Effort to Help

By their nature, Nebraska ranchers and farmers are an independent and mostly reticent lot who stay out of the political fray. However, many seem to have found their voices since the Keystone XL issue percolated to the surface relatively recently.

That wasn’t the case just two years ago when TransCanada started installing a separate pipeline—confusingly called the Keystone—in eastern Nebraska where the soil is clay-based, not sandy. Completed in June, it is already carrying heavy crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands. Environmental activists say that first pipeline wasn’t even on their radar screen until they noticed trucks carting steel pipes along Interstate 80.

The Nebraskan Farmers who stand up are not alone in opposition

There was a petition put up to stop this pipeline some time ago by the Care2 network. Seems that the corporations don't take no for an answer.

Still if it was here in the uK there would certainly not be emminent domain. The people over here know that tar sands are bad and on the whole we don't approve of them as BP found out recently.

Stick together and stick to your guns. Tar sands are dangerous to the environment and we don't need them. Its all just about plain greed for profit.

I urge your company to stop

I urge your company to stop builing the pipeline from Canada to Nebraska immediatly.

Trans Canada Pipeline-Nebraska.

Are there any other oil pipelines in this area?  This would obviously have to have state approval long before they got to this point. Perhaps the state does not consult the people?

oil companies

DEAR FRIENDS, I AM A CHILEAN CITIZEN WELL AWARE OF THE UNFRIENDLY BEHAVIOUR OF OIL COMPANIES, BULLYING ALL KIND  OF OWNERS AROUND THE WORLD, NO MATTER HOW DEVASTATING WERE  THEIR PRACTICES FOR THE LOCAL RESIDENTS. YOUR COUNTRY IS NOT EXCEPTION FOR THEIR BULLYING.. IT IS TIME FOR ALL OF US TO RESIST AND DEFEAT FOREVER THESE UNLIMITED EMPOWERED COMPANIES, AS A SCIENTIST MYSELF I KNOW WE CAN REPLACE THE OIL BASED ENERGY GRID AT WORLDWIDE SCALE WITHOUT PROBLEMS. THE TECHNOLOGY IS THERE, IT IS ONLY POLITICAL WILL WHAT IS LACKING. REGARDS,

JORGE MESIAS,PH D, OREGON STATE EDUCATED,  AT PRESENT RELOCATED IN MY NATIVE COUNTRY

Thank you.

Thanks for the informative articles, pointing out the dangers of the pipeline and the courageous people who are taking a stand against corporate bullies. Good for them. I support their effort.

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