By: Kayla Bremer
Supporters and those who oppose the pipeline spoke in two sessions during a 7–hour U.S. State Department hearing at the Heartland Events Center.
Hundreds braved the cold weather and snow to travel to Grand Island to express their views about the Keystone XL Pipeline which would go through Nebraska.
The U.S. State Department wanted to hold a public meeting before it submits an environmental impact statement regarding the project.
Supporters say the pipeline will help ensure longtime energy security and create jobs.
"KXL will support over 42,000 jobs, putting $2 billion in workers pockets over the next 2 years," John Kuehn of the Southern Public Power District said.
While Keystone fighters, like Randy Thompson say, Nebraska is amongst those with the most to lose and the least to gain.
"President Obama has to make a decision," Thompson said. "He’s going to have to declare a victor. The question is, is he going to raise the heavy hand of big oil, or is he going to raise the hand and the spirits of the American people?"
The hearing follows the recent release of an environment impact statement in which federal officials downplayed the risks of the project to the Ogallala Aquifer.
TransCanada decided to move the original pipeline route to the east, but opposers say it will still affect much of Nebraska’s precious sandhills region.
"To not even mention the risks to livestock in their study is not a minor oversight on the part of the NDEQ, it is gross incompetence," Nebraska rancher Ben Gotschall said.
Another fear is the affect the pipeline will have on the Ogallala Aquifer.
But Brigham McCown, who formally served as the head of the Pipeline of Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, says it’s the best way.
"Pipelines are by far the safest manner to transport energy products in this country," McCown said. "Last year we transported 13.5 billion barrels of oil with a 99.9999952% efficiency rating."
President Obama will have the final say on whether the Keystone XL Pipeline will happen. The Assistant U.S. Secretary of State declined to offer a timeline on when that will happen.