By Sioux City Journal
When pipeline company TransCanada announced plans for a $7 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline — an expansion of an existing line — the reaction was far from muted.
The pipeline, which eventually would run from Alberta, Canada, to Texas, originally was proposed to cross Nebraska’s sensitive Sandhills area and the Ogallala Aquifer. TransCanada has since altered the route.
The expansion has stirred a political firestorm. It started in Nebraska with local fears of water contamination and other environmental concerns, but it quickly became a much bigger issue.
A political football in Washington, D.C., the pipeline issue found its way into all stripes of negotiations on Capitol Hill. It even became an issue in the race for president.
The hyperbole on both sides was endless. The reality? Well, that’s a bit more complicated.
As the Journal reported last week, those who live along or near the existing Keystone pipeline in Northeast Nebraska don’t know what to make of the fuss over the expansion. These Nebraskans don’t give the pipeline below them much thought, aside from the economic impact it provides. In Cedar County, Nebraska, for example, the pipeline’s valuation is $99 million, generating an estimated $1.75 million in property taxes.
Spills and environmental issues? Essentially, they don’t exist in this part of the state.
The lesson here is this: We need to gather all the relevant information before letting emotion and fear take over. A more reasoned approach likely could have spared the region and nation the fierce fighting we’ve seen over the pipeline expansion project.
We shouldn’t, of course, ignore environmental concerns. Key differences exist between the pipeline already built and the proposed expansion. For example, soil types and the depth of water table are significantly different in Northeast Nebraska.
For those reasons, political leaders and activists were right to ask reasonable questions.
Still, we’re left with the sense that the fuss over the Keystone pipeline expansion likely was much ado about little.
But don’t take our word for it. Ask Cedar County landowner Dennis Arens Sr.:
“I never in my life dealt with someone so wonderful doing business,” Arens told the Journal. “As far as if they wanted to put another pipeline next to this one, I’m 100 percent for it.”