NDEQ Pipeline Meetings Kick Off in O'Neill

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O'Neill was the site of the first of what the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality says is many meetings regarding the Keystone XL pipeline to come.

"We're hoping over the next four meeting times that if we have any landowner that wonders if they're going to be impacted or are impacted by the corridor that they can come in and find out what their situation is and ask any questions that they have," says Mike Linder, Director of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

Large scale maps show a 2,000 ft wide corridor where TransCanada wants the new Keystone XL route to run.

The NDEQ says talking with landowners is the first step in a six to nine month long process of refining the route and eventually preparing a report for the governor.

TransCanada says the new route avoids the Sandhills, but landowners where the route hasn't changed say that's not true.

"According to NRCS soil maps my place is 'highly erodible sand' - that's the way it's described, and that's the definition of the Sandhills," says Ernie Fellows, a landowner from Mills. "The Ogallala aquifer is right under me, my house well is only 35 feet deep."

Pro-pipeline groups say the pipeline has benefits like job creation that can't be ignored.

"Moving oil through pipeline is the safest way to move oil without a doubt," says Michael Whatley, Executive Vice President for Consumer Energy Alliance, a national trade organization. "It's the cheapest way to move oil without a doubt, and this is going to be the safest pipeline ever built."

The NDEQ says they've asked TransCanada representatives to attend the sessions too, to answer questions about land acquisition.

"This is a new corridor that we're proposing so there's new landowners here being impacted," says Terry Cunha, Manager of Stakeholder Relations for Keystone XL Pipeline System. "Before they make a decision they want to ensure they have the facts, and that's why it's important for them to come to these meetings to talk to the DEQ and also to talk to us to ensure they have as much information as they need to make a decision."

But some say there are still too many unknowns.

"What's going to happen five, ten, fifteen years down the road because our ranch has been in our family for over 100 years, and I hope that it remains in our family for that length of time," says Teri Taylor, a landowner from Rock County. "I worry about future generations and what they're going to have to deal with."

Neligh, Albion, and Central City will also host informational sessions in the coming days. For more information about those meetings and to see detailed maps, visit the NDEQ's web site by clicking on the link below.