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Keystone XL foes undaunted by State Dept. report raising no objections to project

By Grant Schulte

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Feb. 1 2014 6:54 p.m. MST

"They have some lawsuits in the works, and they're pretty passionate people," said Paul Seamans, of Draper, S.D., who farms and ranches on land where the pipeline would cross. "I'm putting my hopes in them and the fact that President Obama is environmentally inclined."

Julia Trigg Crawford, the owner of a farm near Paris, Texas, who is in a legal battle with TransCanada over the pipeline, said she was disappointed in the State Department's report but happy to see some acknowledgement that tar sands will do further environmental damage.

"The politicians will throw someone under the bus to get what they want, and last year they threw Oklahoma and Texas under the bus," Crawford said. "I'm hopeful that our neighbors to the north fare better than we did, but ... it's not as encouraging as I hoped it would be."

While polls have shown that a majority of Nebraskans support the project, opponents argue it threatens a region of fragile, sandy soil in the northern part of the state.

Opponents insist that the new pipeline route — redrawn after state officials objected to the first path — still crosses the Nebraska Sandhills, an ecologically fragile expanse of grass-covered sand dunes in the northern part of the state. The pipeline was routed around an area designated as the Sandhills by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, but activists say the map doesn't reflect the true conditions in the area. On Friday, they pointed to a map within the new State Department report that showed the Sandhills still within the pipeline's path.

"We're not going to stand still on this, and we're going to keep hitting home that they've never avoided the Sandhills," said Bruce Boettcher, a Bassett, Neb., rancher who is fighting the project. "They've never avoided any of the porous, permeable soil or the Ogallala Aquifer."

Boettcher said he hasn't yet decided how to proceed if the pipeline wins federal approval and construction begins in Nebraska.

"We're not trying to hold up progress," he said. "We're trying to stand up for what our forefathers fought for. When we've lived here for so many generations, and someone comes in and says we're going to stick this pipeline in whether you like it or not — that's a violation of our rights."

Associated Press writers Carson Walker in Sioux Falls, S.D.; Maria Sudekum in Kansas City, Mo.; Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston; and Tom Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

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