Nebraskans Cautious About Pipeline

| Tue Sep. 21, 2010 7:00 AM EDT

As I reported last month, even though the US government has not given the green light for a giant pipeline that TransCanada wants to build to move oil from Alberta to Texas, the oil giant is already sending threatening letters to landowners in Nebraska. The 1,980-mile pipeline would blaze right through the state—that is, if the federal government approves it. But Nebraskans aren't particularly excited about the pipeline, according to a new poll that found 48 percent of state residents oppose the project. Another 33 percent of state residents are still undecided, and only 19 percent approve of the proposal.

With concerns mounting about the safety of pipelines, it's not surprising that Nebraskans would be less than enthusiastic about allowing a giant one to run straight through their state. The poll was conducted on behalf of Bold Nebraska, a progressive group that opposes the pipeline. Seventy-six percent of those polled said they believe that there should be state regulations on pipelines, and 81 percent said they should have access to and input in the states's emergency response plan for an oil spill. Eighty-four percent of residents said they wanted their elected officials at the local and state level to be "very active" in raising questions about the proposed pipeline.

Republican Governor Dave Heineman has avoided the topic, stating that it's a "federal regulatory issue" and not something the state needs to be concerned with. But Republican Senator Mike Johanns issued a fairly strong statement last month urging TransCanada to remain "above board" in their negotiations with state residents. "Landowners tell me that TransCanada has set arbitrary deadlines for acceptance of payment offers and threatened the use of eminent domain without so much as an approved permit to move forward with the project," said Johanns, and called on TransCanada to "immediately lift any deadlines imposed on Nebraska landowners and to negotiate in good faith."

The poll is further evidence that Nebraskas don't want to be railroaded on the pipeline. "Citizens do not appreciate being misled by TransCanada and want our elected leaders to stand up and protect our land and water," said Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska.

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