Star Herald: AWTRY: Domina’s closing arguments unmask TransCanada’s KXL project

GREG AWTRY | September 16, 2017

David Domina, attorney for the landowners opposing the KXL, submitted closing arguments to the Nebraska Public Service Commission on Sept. 15, 2017, saying, “Massive gaps in TransCanada’s evidence confirm its failure to carry the burden of proof for route approval.”

He backed up that statement in a 37-page report debunking TransCanada’s claims about jobs and tax revenues. Domina said, “The KXL will not generate more tax revenue in Nebraska; it will reduce them.” He added, “KXL will not create thousands of permanent jobs, or even hundreds in Nebraska. It will create eight or nine, but diminish farm income.”

He describes in detail the “collapse on the witness stand” of TransCanada’s Ernie Goss, their only witness designated to testify on the topics of taxes and jobs. In fact, a Mr. Fuher, a TransCanada employee, later contradicted Goss’s claims on job numbers with Domina pointing out permanent jobs will increase from about 34 to 40-44, a net gain of six to 10 jobs. And Goss’ claim of 40,000 temporary jobs was as Domina explains, “utterly debunked by UNO economist Michael O’Hara.”

Domina said Goss indefensibly summarized the impact of KXL construction jobs during construction and operation of the pipeline. And that Goss could not even explain his sources or figures and at one point, “Goss put income from operations in Keya Paha County at $217,000 per year for only two-tenths of one person.” Domina added, “This folly was apparent to all in the hearing venue.”

Regarding taxes, UNO economist Dr. O’Hara said, according to Domina, “It is easy to forecast KXL’s property tax obligations owed in each and every county, in each and every one of the years 2035 though 2069, will total $0.” He went on to say the proposed route “will produce significant net decrease in property taxes over the life of the pipeline.” O’Hara estimates tax loss revenues for Nebraska of $4.8 million in the first twenty years and $14.3 million over fifty years.

What happens to the pipe at the end of its lifetime and will we actually use what goes through the pipe? Domina says it best referring to TransCanada’s burden to prove it being in the public interest, “The pipeline will neither load nor unload products for Nebraskans. Its expected utility is 20 years, and with adaptations it may last 50. If TransCanada has its way, the pipeline with its sludge inside, will then waste in Nebraska’s soil until landowners left with the mess are required to remove it.”

Listen folks, there is a reason this KXL “fight” has been going on in Nebraska for eight years. There is nothing in it for Nebraskans. There are no agreements in place saying we will ever see a drop of this toxic Diluted Bitumen come back to our state, yet we are expected to ask our farmers and ranchers to submit to eminent domain courts so a foreign corporation can take control of their land forever just to bolster company profits while providing no direct and long-lasting benefits to our state.

And lost in all this discussion and glaringly omitted from the Public Service Commission’s hearing is what exactly is in that pipe. It is not crude oil, as TransCanada would have you believe. It is Diluted Bitumen, DilBit for short, a concoction of tarsands diluted with lighter hydrocarbons to make it thin enough to go through a pipe. The 33 million gallons a day that would be pumped at high pressure through this 36-inch pipe will consist of 10 million gallons of this diluent, known to have excessive amounts of benzene, a known cancer causing agent that can also cause birth defects. Now tell me, do you actually want this stuff traveling inches away from our groundwater in some cases? And unlike conventional crude, which generally floats on water, DilBit sinks as proven by the million-gallon spill into the Kalamazoo River in 2010.

If the KXL was such a good idea, TransCanada would have easily presented their case to the good people of Nebraska eight years ago and the KXL would already be in the ground, but as the evidence of over exaggerated claims came to the surface, and risks were exposed, and benefits or lack thereof were challenged in the hearing, it has once and for all proven this entire project has bumped up against a force more powerful than partisanship, more powerful than federal or state governments, and more powerful than the lobbyists’ overloaded chests of campaign contributions.

TransCanada ran headfirst into the force of “people of the prairie,” Native Americans, farmers and ranchers and citizens who have carved out an existence in a place once referred to as The Great American Desert, who are hell-bent on preserving our natural resources, protecting our landowner rights and reminding all that this is our land, our water and our responsibility to steward it to the best of our abilities and to pass it down to generations we expect to do the same.

(Personal note: Over the last eight years I have had the good fortune to have a front row seat in this battle. I have personally sat in meetings listening to TransCanada’s claims that have later been proven false. I have met many of the affected landowners and looked into their eyes, seen their tears and their sacrifices. I have been at unruly county commissioner meetings, reported on massive hearings in Albion and Grand Island and through it all, I have seen the people of Nebraska rise above political agendas and try with all their might to look at this project from a point of right or wrong, not right or left, and I believe in their efforts to do the right thing for all of us. Now it is in the hands of the PSC and it is their turn to do the same.)