Supporters and opponents of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline are testifying at a public meeting in Grand Island today (Thursday).
The meeting at the Heartland Events Center is the last one before the State Department issues its final environmental impact statement on the pipeline. A draft of that statement found it would have no significant impact on most of the route from Alberta to Texas.
Referring to areas polluted by recent pipeline leaks, rancher Bruce Boettcher disputed that.
"The government says there’s no environmental impact with this pipeline," Boettcher said. "What constitutes an impact? The Arkansas, the Kalamazoo, the Yellowstone, the Suncor – are these of no environmental consequence? What the hell is going on here?"
Supporters of the pipeline maintained it would be safe.
"TransCanada has additionally agreed to design commitments that will make this the safest and most modern pipeline ever constructed and operated in the United States," said David Barnett of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters. "Included in these commitments are reduced operating pressures, constructing the pipeline as if it were in a highly populated area, additional monitors placed along the pipeline and monitored 24 hours a day, added shutoff valves along the pipeline route and one foot of extra depth along the entire pipeline route."
Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones says the department has already received 800,000 public comments, and will continue to accept comments through April 22. Sometime after that, it will issue a final environmental impact statement. Then it will evaluate whether the pipeline is in the national interest, considering issues like economics, energy security and foreign policy. If other agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, disagree, the final decision will be up to the president.