Protestors once again presented themselves around the White House on November 6th hoping to convince President Obama to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. Nebraska has been waging its own war against TransCanada and the proposed pipeline from Alberta to Texas in recent weeks as well.
Nebraska sits on much of the Ogallala aquifer, the largest aquifer in North America. The aquifer provides about 80 percent of the states irrigation and drinking water, and the proposed route of Keystone XL passes right over this region of the state. As can be expected, there have been arguments from both sides. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman opposes the route but supports the pipeline, as he does not see a reason for the proposed route when TransCanada already has a pipeline passing through the eastern portion of the state. The northwest region of Nebraska, where the proposed pipeline will travel, is ecologically sensitive and Nebraska legislators have introduced bills that would ban any pipelines from passing through such sensitive regions. Keystone XL is estimated to carry over 700,000 barrels of oil a day over the Ogallala, and that is serious concern for many residents, and this concern is understandable. With 80 percent of the water supply, the Ogallala is a major sustainer of life, not just for humans, but crops and livestock as well. It is also under portions of neighboring states, and if it were to become contaminated, other states that rely on it would potentially see serious problems too.
Fossil fuels are going to be a part of our society for decades into the future. With this being the case, they must be managed and developed with policies that are in everyone’s best interest. In the case of Nebraska, there is not an immediate need for such a project to pass through such a sensitive area since there is already an existing pipeline on the other side of the state. A spokesman for TransCanada said the opposition is being unrealistic and that it would be impossible to change the route of the pipeline now since it is almost three years into permitting. Another argument is that when TransCanada built the pipeline on the eastern side of the state, it had virtually no opposition, and this was just two years ago. That pipeline goes over the aquifer, but only a small portion of it.
There are many reasons for the new opposition, and one is the fact that a new pipeline over a major portion of the largest aquifer in North America is simply impractical. However, with the new regulatory structure since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, this project, if approved, will likely be more carefully watched than what has previously been in place, and this oversight will be critical on all levels of the project from the first day of construction.