The massive oil spill in the Gulf is sprouting concerns in Nebraska over a proposed pipeline.
TransCanada wants to build a pipeline from Keya Paha County down to Jefferson County. But, opponents believe it's a safety and an environmental risk.
While the proposed pipeline wouldn't go in anywhere near Jane Kleeb's Hastings
home, she's still concerned.
Jane Kleeb, head of Bold Nebraska, said, "It is risking the Ogallala aquifer which 85% of Nebraskans get their drinking water from."
The oil spill in the Gulf is fueling fears over what could happen in the Heartland if the U.S. State Department approves the pipeline.
Kleeb heads the new political watchdog group called "Bold Nebraska." She has started a petition drive on Facebook.
"I think we saw with the BP spill that they also said that safety measures were in place and
we see the disaster and tragedy that's happening in the Gulf right now and for us, no, their (TransCanada's) word is not good enough."
Construction has already begun on a pipeline stretching from Canada through eastern Nebraska all the way down to Oklahoma. TransCanada now wants to build an extension
crossing the more than 250 miles from Keya Paha County to Jefferson County. It would pump 700 thousand barrels of oil a day through the state.
Jeff Rauh, TransCanada spokesperson, said, "There are fundamental differences in operating an oil pipeline and in tapping into an underground reservoir deep below the sea."
For one thing, Rauh said TransCanada will test the strength of the steel during and after construction. Detection systems will be in place around the clock to monitor leaks. If one erupts, Rauh said it'll quickly be contained by shutting off the mechanized pumps.
"A problem from the pipeline, even if it does develop, is small is containable and can be
managed locally in the area where it occurs," he said.
That's not enough reassurance for the Nebraska Wildlife Federation. Duane Hovorka, the executive director, said putting the pipeline across the fragile sandhill soil and the northern edge of the Ogallala aquifer is a disaster waiting to happen.
Hovorka said, "You've got to expect that there are going to be some problems. There always are. The question is how big of a leak could you have before it's detected."
The pipeline would pump up Nebraska's economy by bringing in 13 thousand construction jobs along with tax revenue. TransCanada argues it's needed to fill the U.S. demand for a stable source of energy.
For Kleeb, none of that is worth the risk.
"Nebraska is at the heart of where we can be leading with new energy," she said. "We don't have to rely on dirty tar sands oil."
The U.S. State Department will decide if the pipeline is the national interest on June 16th.
Reporter's Notes by Jessica Phinney:
Kleeb is urging residents to sign her petition and contact their senators.
The web address for the petition is http:\tinyurl.comprotectnebraska
Senator Ben Nelson, Washington, DC: (202)224-6551 or www.bennelson.senate.gov
Senator Mike Johanns, Washington, DC: (202)224-4224 or firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. State Department, Washington, DC: (202)647-4000 or go to their web site www.state.gov
and click on the "contact us" box in the upper right hand corner