Omaha World Herald: ‘We hate to have to fight again’: Nebraska farm couple defiant as Trump acts to advance Keystone XL, Dakota Access pipelines

‘We hate to have to fight again’: Nebraska farm couple defiant as Trump acts to advance Keystone XL, Dakota Access pipelines

· By Paul Hammel

· World-Herald Bureau

· Jan 25, 2017

Helen, center, and Art Tanderup in Omaha in 2014.

LINCOLN — At her farm in the path of the Keystone XL pipeline, Helen Tanderup remained defiant on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, President Donald Trump fulfilled a campaign promise by seeking to restart the controversial Canadian tar sands oil pipeline.

Out in Neligh, Nebraska, a protest billboard still stood along Tanderup’s gravel driveway. She and her husband, Art, hosted a concert headlined by Neil Young to oppose the pipeline in 2014, and their distaste for the project has not waned.

“We hate to have to fight it again,” Tanderup said. “We think it’s the worst thing that could happen to our land and our water.”

Trump signed two executive orders on Tuesday that not only advance the 1,179-mile Keystone XL but also seek to end a stalemate that has halted completion of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota.

The moves upended previous orders by President Barack Obama to deny a federal permit for Keystone XL and study alternative routes for the Dakota Access project.

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts was among those praising Trump’s move.

“Keystone XL will create good-paying jobs for Nebraska workers and bring property tax relief to counties along the route,” Ricketts said.

In Congress, Nebraska and Iowa lawmakers reacted positively.

“A large majority of Nebraskans want to see Keystone XL completed, knowing we need long-term solutions for affordable energy,” Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., said in a press release.

A spokesman for TransCanada said Tuesday that it is already preparing a reapplication for a federal permit for the pipeline and will be working with the Nebraska Public Service Commission to reapply for approval of a route through the state.

“KXL represents the safest, most environmentally sound way to connect the American economy to an abundant energy resource,” said Terry Cunha of TransCanada.

A leading opponent of the Keystone XL said that Tuesday’s move once again puts Nebraska “front and center” in the controversy over the pipeline, which would carry thick tar sand oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Jane Kleeb, who heads a four-state environmental group called Bold Alliance, said TransCanada still needs to gain approval for a route through Nebraska — a process that could take up to a year.

If the company tries to use eminent domain to forcibly obtain right of way from Nebraska landowners, a lawsuit would be filed, Kleeb promised.

“It isn’t right for a foreign corporation to use eminent domain for private gain,” she said. At least 100 Nebraska landowners, Kleeb said, will resist selling right of way.

TransCanada has faced multiple delays since first proposing the Keystone XL in 2010.

Landowners objected to what they saw as heavy-handed tactics to obtain right of way, and fought a route through the state’s groundwater-rich Sand Hills. The U.S. State Department delayed its review of the project, and the Nebraska Legislature in a special session forced a rerouting of the project.

In November 2015, Obama denied a permit for the pipeline, citing concerns about exacerbating climate change. The company then withdrew its application for a 275-mile route across Nebraska.

In comments Tuesday, Trump promised to cut a “better deal” on the Keystone XL before giving it final approval. Any pipeline in the U.S., Trump said, should be built with steel produced in America.

Right now, about 52 percent of the Keystone XL would utilize U.S.-made steel pipe, with the rest purchased from China and India. Cunha said that the company is still reviewing the president’s executive order, which must be finalized by the U.S. secretary of commerce.

Kleeb said the president’s order puts a 60-day deadline on approval of the Keystone XL, a swift timeline that will spark a lawsuit from environmental groups on the grounds that it is too hasty.

She said that with the market flooded with cheap oil, the expensive tar sands oil is no longer needed.

“I’m not sure they can get the capital to build it,” Kleeb said.

Right now, Canada has pipeline capacity to carry about 4 million barrels of oil a day and produces about 3.9 million barrels a day.

But the head of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Tim McMillan, said that worldwide oil consumption continues to rise and that more pipelines will be needed. They are the safest and most economical way to move oil from Alberta’s rich tar sands deposits, he added.

“It still makes sense today,” McMillan said of the Keystone XL.

Members of the Iowa and Nebraska congressional delegations agreed.

“It has never made sense to block those pipelines,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., noted that she’s long supported construction of the Keystone XL and said most of her constituents share that view.

Trade unions also have supported the pipeline, which would create hundreds of construction jobs. Critics, though, point out that only 35 permanent jobs would be created.

In recent months, the Dakota Access pipeline has been the scene of several violent protests near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Native Americans fought the project, saying it trampled on tribal rights, while environmentalists said it would ruin drinking water and encourage risky fracking of oil.

Nearly 600 pipeline opponents, who call themselves “water protectors,” were arrested in North Dakota last year, clogging courts there.

On Tuesday, Trump ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to quickly review and approve construction and easement requests for the Dakota Access pipeline.

“From now on, we are going to start making pipelines in the United States,” Trump said from the Oval Office.

Ed Fallon of Bold Iowa, a group that has sued to block the Dakota Access pipeline across Iowa, said opponents will not be intimidated.

“The alliance of landowners, farmers, tribal communities, environmentalists and property-rights defenders who’ve fought this pipeline for over two years aren’t going to lie down and let the president’s Big Oil buddies roll over us,” Fallon said.

As a practical matter, the Dakota Access project faces an easier path to completion. The pipeline, which would carry oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to a refinery in Illinois, is complete except for a section that would pass under the Missouri River, just upstream from the Standing Rock Reservation.

Until last year, Trump owned a small amount of stock in Energy Transfer Partners and at least $100,000 in Phillips 66, an energy company that owns one-quarter of the Dakota pipeline. Trump sold the shares last year as part of a wide-ranging stock divestment, a spokesman said.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

paul.hammel, 402-473-9584