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Keystone XL Pipeline hearing brings debate to Lincoln
TransCanada filed for a presidential permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline in September of 2008. Since then it's been very controversial - a lot of different points of view. But those opinions have never mattered more than today.
State Department officials starting taking public comments on the pipeline early this morning and they won't stop until 8 tonight.
By the end of it, they'll have thousands of opinions to sift through before making a tough decision.
"I want to reassure Nebraskans that the aquifer and the drinking water is safe and building a pipeline in the sand hills are safe we well," said Robert Jones, Vice-President of Keystone Pipelines, TransCanada.
It was a sea of red and orange at the Pershing Center Tuesdays as both supporters and opponents expressed their opinions of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline permit.
"I'm not against it, I think it should be rerouted, the location that they chose to do it is just for too risky, dangerous risk to our aquifer," said Lori Fisher, Shelby, NE.
"If there is a leak, the aquifer will be contaminated and will be affected - this couldn't be farther from the truth," said Jones.
Supporters of the pipeline held a press conference before the hearing to express their views including State Senator Jim Smith.
"This construction project and the operation of the completed pipeline will provide economic benefits to Nebraska by creating thousands of much-needed jobs, by generating new business activity," said Smith.
But opponents say the pipeline just doesn't work for Nebraska.
"I feel like we're scraping the bottom of the barrel, we're obviously running out of oil so now we're going after what's really hard to get places," said Jane Wilson, Omaha.
Supporters say the pipelines will create 20,000 jobs, several thousand of those here in Nebraska, but opponents say Nebraska just doesn't need them.
"This is bad for Nebraska, we don't need the jobs," said Fisher.
All of the commemts made in Lincoln Tuesday, along with the ones that have been made all week, will be taken back to Washington DC where the State Department will be taking those comments into consideration when they decide to approve or deny the Keystone XL pipeline. A decision is expected by the end of the year.
While those inside were giving their statements to the State Department, others were outside giving statements of the own. Both sides expressed their opinions by holding protests.
Opponents, who we're all encouraged to wear red, chanted their views as both sides lined up to go inside.
Several bus loads of supporters were brought into show their support for the pipeline.
Those outside protesting stayed civil with the exception of a couple of arguments.
Both sides of the issue say they just wanted a chance to let their voices be heard
"It's important to remember that if you poll the folks that the unions and TransCanada brought in the vast majority are not from Nebraska. They are from Iowa, Arkansas, and other states and that really shows you how scared TransCanada is," said Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska.
"Right now, we need good jobs, right now with the way the economy is and a lot of people out of work, people are losing their houses, their losing their vehicles," said LiUNA member Andy Schoenewe
Tuesday's hearing continues until 8:00 Tuesday evening in Lincoln.
A second hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Atkinson. Many of the same supporters are expected at that hearing.
Although the proposed pipeline would travel through several states, Nebraska is garnering the most attention. So much so, Canada's Consul General Martin Loken was on hand to talk about Canada and the U.S. being each others most important energy partner.
"It's an oportunity to remind folks about just how deep the relationship is between Canada and the United States and now I think locally Nebraska proudly exports all kinds of great products to the world, but it may not be a lot of folks are aware that Canada by far and away is the biggest customer Nebraska exports to in the world," said Loken.
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