Keystone XL Oil Pipeline on Back Burner Until 2012

By Clay Masters (Harvest Public Media)

The Obama Administration announced yesterday that the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline has been delayed until after the 2012 presidential election. Some say that’s convenient since environmental groups have used the construction of the pipeline as a test of the president’s environmental commitment.

Living in Nebraska, conversations about the Keystone XL pipeline are part of life. Signs that read “Windmills, not Oil Spills” are scattered throughout residential neighborhoods and TV commercials during evening news programs are filled without pro-pipeline advertisements.

Proponents of building the pipeline say it would create jobs and help lessen the country’s demand for foreign oil, but critics are fearful that the pipeline would pollute the expansive underground Ogallala Aquifer. Over the last year or so many Nebraskans have traveled to Washington D.C. to protest the pipeline.  

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman called a special session of the unicameral legislature to craft rules that would give the state control over where, and if, a pipeline could built.

Fred Knapp, NET News’ legislative reporter, has been covering the special session and the pipeline for NET and NPR. I was able to sit down with him in one of our studios today and to put this week’s developments into perspective. I asked him why a decision on an international issue hinges on a small area in Nebraska.

The Nebraska special session is set to reconvene on Monday.“The opposition was the most intense here,” Knapp said.  “Some people with expertise say the concern was overblown because of the nature of (the aquifer) because it consists of rock, sand and silt and oil wouldn’t go far… but other people were afraid there would be other components like benzene, which could leach out into the aquifer and pollute a wide range of the water.”

“It’s not clear whether they’ll just decide at that point to go home or whether they’ll continue on with considering the bill that’s before them now, which would in effect give the governor in Nebraska siting authority to decide whether a route is approved or disapproved,” Knapp said.