By DARRELL GAROUTTE
I am a landowner whose ranch would be crossed by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. I don’t want a huge pipeline carrying tar sands bitumen across my property but, in the end, I suppose I’ll be forced to give up land for this project. If you were in my shoes, would you want your land condemned to build an industrial project like this through your pastures?
The best I can hope for is to force TransCanada to build it as safely as possible and not use substandard pipe in rural areas like it originally planned to do.
- I want an emergency response plan in place, which we haven’t seen so far.
- I want to know that the construction work on my land will be done properly, will be bonded, and that it won’t unduly interfere with my ability to operate my ranch.
- I don’t want to be held financially liable for any pipeline failures after construction is done.
- I don’t want the rural roads and bridges in my county to be ruined by heavy truck traffic.
I have many other concerns about adequate bonding, public safety, river crossings, reclamation work and weeds. I have concerns about the willingness of state and federal agencies to protect me — the little guy — when there’s so much political pressure to accommodate this Canadian pipeline company.
Those of us whose land would be condemned and crossed by this project have concerns because of TransCanada’s wretched safety record with its Keystone I pipeline (not to mention the TransCanada gas pipeline that exploded in Wyoming last summer).
That’s why we formed the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group, a committee of the Northern Plains Resource Council. We knew that, in the stampede to build Keystone XL, neither the politicians nor the chambers of commerce nor the local newspapers would stand up for us landowners. We had to stand up for ourselves.
The oil spill on the Yellowstone River last summer taught us a lesson: Spills do happen. The Keystone XL pipeline would have the capacity to transport 20 times the amount of oil of the ExxonMobil pipeline that burst, and would carry a more corrosive tar sands crude.
In Nebraska, the Keystone XL route crossed farm and ranch country where the Ogallala aquifer — one of the largest and most relied-upon aquifers in the world — comes to the surface. Polluting the Ogallala would affect America’s entire midsection. This should not be allowed to happen.
Instead of trying to fix these problems while the state of Nebraska worked to find a route that protects the Ogallala, Congress set an arbitrary deadline for a decision on the presidential permit needed for the pipeline. It was impossible to resolve the issue by this deadline, leaving the White House little choice but to refuse to issue the permit at this time.
The denial of the presidential permit, however temporary, gives us some breathing room. Landowners need help in preventing a Keystone XL pipeline disaster — a disaster for land and water, for farmers and ranchers, for local governments.
Darrell Garoutte, member of the Northern Plains Pipeline Landowners Group, lives near Wolf Point.