Will a reroute of the current Keystone XL pipeline proposal change Nebraskans' view of the project? During today's OnPoint, Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, discusses the debate in Nebraska over the pipeline project and explains why she believes Rep. Lee Terry's (R-Neb.) support of the pipeline is not in line with his constituents.
Jane Kleeb: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: Jane, let's start off by having you address the tone in Nebraska towards the Keystone XL pipeline. When we had Congressman Lee Terry on the show last month, and he represents Nebraska's 2nd congressional district, he said that Nebraskans want this pipeline. Is that your understanding of the situation on the ground?
Jane Kleeb: Not at all and, you know, Representative Terry has been out of step with Nebraskans on the pipeline issue from day one. You know, the most recent polling we did, mind you, is about six months old at this point, but essentially Nebraskans were split down the middle if they wanted the pipeline or not. The vast majority of Nebraskans, over 70 percent, absolutely wanted it rerouted, not only out of the Sandhills, but out of the Ogallala Aquifer. And then about 80 percent of Nebraskans didn't think that TransCanada, a foreign company, should be able to take land through eminent domain. So, Nebraskans still are concerned about the pipeline and the dust has definitely not settled in our state.
Monica Trauzzi: Congressman Terry has said that the State Department is using Nebraska as an excuse. If the Sandhills issue were to be resolved, then is Nebraska no longer a good excuse?
Jane Kleeb: You know, I think the Sandhills was just one piece of our concerns. The real concern is the Ogallala Aquifer. You know, that is the main driver of our ag economy. Without water and with this pipeline essentially risking our water supply, you know, that is a major red flag for a lot of Nebraskans. So, it's not only about the Sandhills, it's about the aquifer. And I think this pipeline speaks to a larger, which is why I think it's become such a hot issue in the United States is it speaks to a much larger question about energy. Where are we going to get energy from? You know, is this energy even coming to the United States? And so this really has kind of drawn up a lot of other outstanding questions for Americans.
Monica Trauzzi: So, is there a route that TransCanada could put in front of you that you would say yes to?
Jane Kleeb: I think if this pipeline absolutely had to go through, if all the studies were done and they found it in the national interest, that it would have to really go alongside the first pipeline that's on the eastern part of our state. It really avoids a lot of the Ogallala Aquifer. It still crosses parts of it, but not kind of major parts. It doesn't cross to the heart of it like this one would potentially do. So, that would be the safest. Still not ideal obviously, but the safest if they had to go through.
Monica Trauzzi: And what's your understanding of what they may come back with now that they have this first rejection of a new route?
Jane Kleeb: You know, there's all this spin from TransCanada right now and you hear different members of Congress, including Representative Terry and even our own governor saying Nebraska is going to announce a route in a couple of days. And then a few days later they say, well, that's all on hold because we don't have an official memo from the State Department. From our perspective, until TransCanada reapplies, there's no discussion of this pipeline. Congress can spin its wheels, essentially chasing Moby Dick, right? Saying that they're going to do this bill or do that bill, but until TransCanada reapplies, this pipeline has been denied.
Monica Trauzzi: So, like you mentioned, there is talk in Congress right now. There's a push to somehow handle this legislatively to bypass what the president has done, perhaps in a payroll tax bill or a transportation bill. Does this all signal the fact that, you know, the oil lobby is very strong in this country and this isn't going anywhere?
Jane Kleeb: Yeah, I mean this issue is definitely not going to go away and that is clear through the amount of money that oil companies have in our legislative process. We not only see this in Congress, we see it on a state level too, our little unicameral. You know, TransCanada was paying lobbyists, you know, $20,000 a month to lobby our state senators and so it's a problem that big oil has so much money invested in this process. And it's a problem that Canada is now complaining that the United States is interfering with their end bridge, tar sands pipeline discussion and that foreign entities shouldn't get involved in local issues, yet Canada is sending folks to the United States all the time on this issue. I wish that Congress would not try to set precedent and it's dangerous precedents to try to set to try to reverse a president's presidential permit and try to somehow legally finesse their way around this. They should just allow TransCanada to reapply and if the pipeline is good and stand on its merits, it will get its presidential permit.
Monica Trauzzi: The pipeline would be a net jobs creator. So why not approve it then, especially considering the down economy at this point?
Jane Kleeb: Yes, because I think, you know, and I think a lot of Nebraskans share my view and especially the folks along the route do, that there is no amount of jobs that is worth risking our water supply. We have a $20 billion ag economy that is the reason why Nebraska has a 4 percent unemployment rate. So we're just not willing to risk that, especially for oil that's not guaranteed to the United States. We see this. Canada, TransCanada is on the record with their energy board saying that this is an export pipeline, that this will be sold to international markets like Brazil and Europe. So why would we risk our water for oil that's not even coming to the United States?
Monica Trauzzi: So what is your strategy moving forward as Republicans sort of move ahead with these legislative attempts?
Jane Kleeb: You know, our strategy from day one has always been to make sure that the voices of farmers and ranchers and the voices of Nebraskans are heard. You know, this is the first environmental issue that Bold Nebraska has taken on. You know, this is a whole new world, you know, to many of us and we just keep on fighting. We go to every city council meeting. We go to every energy board meeting in our state to make sure that we are keeping TransCanada accountable. So we'll continue to do that, making sure that our voices are heard throughout this process.
Monica Trauzzi: In his State of the Union address the president called for an all-of-the-above energy strategy. Wouldn't that include something like Keystone and why is Keystone necessarily better or worse than things like offshore drilling or natural gas exploration?
Jane Kleeb: Yeah, absolutely, and there is a fundamental difference between the Keystone pipeline and domestic oil production. The Keystone pipeline is a foreign oil pipeline. This is not American-made energy and so Bold Nebraska is on the record saying we are fine with oil production happening in North Dakota or even happening offshore. We obviously want to make sure that that's safe and I think FEMSA really does need to be looking at pipeline infrastructure. They've said as much as well. But the pipeline does not fit into that equation. It's not clean energy and it's not American-made energy and those were the two things that the president was talking about.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, we'll end it there. Thank you for coming on the show, nice to see you.
Jane Kleeb: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see back here tomorrow.
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