We like a good April Fools’ prank as much as anybody. But Bold Nebraska’s phony press release — claiming that Gov. Dave Heineman had written a letter asking President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline — wasn’t funny.
For the record, the governor opposed the pipeline’s original route over a wide swath of the Sand Hills and Ogallala Aquifer, as did many Nebraskans. He called a special session of the Legislature that changed state laws on pipeline routing. After its builder, TransCanada, addressed the state’s concerns and agreed to reroute the pipeline, Heineman now supports the project to carry Canadian tar sands oil to Texas refineries.
Although it coincided with April 1, the anti-pipeline group’s joke was ill-timed.
The U.S. State Department is in the midst of accepting public comments on its latest draft environmental impact assessment, a key part of its decision-making process on whether to grant federal approval of the pipeline. A public hearing is scheduled for April 18 in Grand Island, where Nebraskans again will have the opportunity to offer federal officials their opinions on the latest environmental impact draft. Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., has proposed legislation to require the pipeline’s approval.
And through all of this, the public has been barraged with information — both pro and con, both accurate and inaccurate — about pipeline safety, job creation, possible environmental effects, the impact on energy supplies and prices, the boost it would give our national economy.
Bold Nebraska officials, who have opposed the pipeline, said they wanted to call attention to the governor’s different opinions. But Heineman wasn’t alone in opposing the pipeline’s original path through the environmentally sensitive and groundwater-rich Sand Hills, nor is he alone in supporting the Keystone XL now that a better route has been found.
Although Nebraska initially had no say in the matter, state leaders and lawmakers stepped up and passed new laws designed to make certain that Nebraska’s voice was heard. TransCanada responded responsibly. State environmental experts reviewed it, and the governor OK’d its much-improved path.
Many pipeline opponents have turned the Keystone XL controversy into a symbol of something bigger — an effort to block production of oil extracted from Canada’s tar sands and slow the burning of fossil fuels. But stopping this pipeline won’t stop that production — it will merely reroute the crude in another direction, most likely Asia, where refining processes are unlikely to be as environmentally conscientious as in the United States.
“The approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including this proposed project, really remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of development of the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil in the U.S.,” said Kerri-Ann Jones, the assistant U.S. secretary of state overseeing the Keystone XL approval process.
Further, moving that oil through a well-built, state-of-the-art pipeline would be more environmentally responsible than the transportation alternatives, including shipping by truck, rail and barge.
Federal approval of the pipeline should be granted. The United States would benefit from a supply of crude oil from a friendly neighbor, and studies suggest that Nebraska could get $1.8 billion in economic benefits.
This is serious business — not a laughing matter.