I took a break from writing Examiner articles. That's how I know, the Keystone XL pipeline has been a hot topic on the national, and Nebraska, political scene for a long time. In the wake of the BP Gulf disaster, my first concern was the issue of simple oversight and the danger of spills. With hundreds of miles of pipeline over the Ogallala Aquifer, studies have been done on potential spills contaminating the largest underground fresh water system in the United States. The spill in the gulf impacted billions of dollars of seafood and tourism. A spill on the Keystone could affect agriculture and drinking water for major mid-western metropolitan areas, such as Omaha and Denver.
Environmental studies pointed out several issues, including a habitat for a burying beetle. The pipeline was rerouted to, generally, avoid this area. Now, at another point where the pipeline crosses from South Dakota into Nebraska, local residents notice it crosses a nesting tree for a bald eagle pair. This raises additional concerns. The existing proposal for the pipeline specifies the company must not kill or disturb endangered species. The company spokesman assures those concerned every specific issue is not spelled out, but they are fully aware of their obligations and will avoid disturbing the eagles.
A 2000-page proposal is being reviewed by Governor Dave Heineman, who spoke on a call-in radio show saying he is still reading it. He has until next month to complete his review and offer his approval.
There is a need for jobs across the country, and energy and the construction of this pipeline will bring jobs to Nebraska and other states on its route. It does not mean I lose perspective on the danger oil spills can create. I have a vision of the pipeline leaking in the middle of a South Dakota hay field for days with nobody to monitor, and the petroleum product seeping into the ground unchecked. It has taken a long time to reach a conclusion, and once the governor gives his approval or recommendations, it must still be approved through the Obama State Department. Which is not the usual place for energy, job safety, or environmental accountability.