“Further review” reverses mayor’s pipeline support

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After “further review” and consulting with others, Ralston Mayor Don Groesser retracted previous support of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline expansion in an April 13 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In an interview with the Gateway, Groesser said he’s now aware of the danger posed by the pipeline.

“I’m concerned,” he said.  “There’s just a ton of farmers and cattle ranchers out there [in the path of the pipeline].  Nebraska just really relies on their livelihood.”

Groesser said he thought the letter was simply to encourage Clinton to make a decision regarding the project, when, in fact, the letter was urging her to approve the pipeline.  A pipeline he’s not sure will be safe.

“They say it won’t have a leak,” he said.  “But who knows?”

In the event of a leak, there is “no doubt” TransCanada would assume responsibility and contain a spill, said TransCanada’s senior communications specialist Terry Cunha in a November 2010 interview with the Gateway.

“TransCanada will do what is necessary to repair the system,” Cunha said. “This isn’t our first attempt at building a pipeline.”

The pipeline expansion would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Nederland, Texas. During its 1,711-mile stretch, the pipeline would travel beneath the Sand Hills of western Nebraska, directly over the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking water to 85 percent of Nebraskans.

The first letter, signed by more than 60 mayors, including two from Nebraska, was sent April 9 and urged Clinton’s approval of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline.

That letter shouldn’t concern anyone opposed to the project, editor of the website BOLD Nebraska and pipeline opponent Jane Kleeb said.

“Only two Nebraska mayors are on the letter,” Kleeb said.  “And it was a letter sponsored by the lobby arm of big oil companies.”

The other Nebraska mayor whose name appeared on the letter was Rod Norrie of Geneva.  Geneva falls in the proposed route of the pipeline.  Ralston does not.

Kleeb said she puts more weight into letters from landowners in the route of the proposed expansion.

“There is a new letter each day from each side it seems,” she said.  “Letters from Congress, landowners, etc. either for or against the pipeline.  I pay most attention to the landowners.”

Recently, 30 landowners along the pipeline route sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama opposing the pipeline.

“Those are the letters I put weight into,” Kleeb said.  “And those bode well for our side.”

Along with landowner letters, another letter signed and sent by almost half of Nebraska state senators urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to do more research regarding the pipeline, also bodes well for pipeline opponents, Kleeb said.  Clinton will make the executive decision whether to approve the pipeline.

“I do think the project can be stopped,” Kleeb said.  “The TransCanada pipeline is not in Nebraska’s or our nation’s energy interest.  The oil is not guaranteed for our country and it does nothing to move us to a new, clean energy economy.”

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