UNO economics professor testified land values will be hurt by the Keystone XL Pipeline

Photo by the Gateway

Charlotte Reilly

University of Nebraska at Omaha Economics Professor Michael O’Hara testified that the Keystone XL Pipeline would lower land values at the Nebraska Public Service Commission’s hearing.

The hearing, meant to determine if the pipeline will benefit Nebraska, took place on Aug. 9, 2017.

“I was engaged by the lawyers representing the landowners to do an economic analysis and a social analysis because the statute requires an economic analysis and a social analysis,” O’Hara said. “The pipeline hired TransCanada for its pipeline project, and KXL hired Creighton Professor Ernie Goss. He did an analysis, and part of my job was to critique his.”

O’Hara said that the price of land along the pipeline route would go down $50,000 to $200,000 per quarter section, which differed from Goss’s.

“He did not include things I included that I thought were appropriate to include within the sweep of the analysis,” O’Hara said. “One item I included that Goss didn’t include, another economist hired by the landowners didn’t include, the EPA didn’t include and the state department didn’t include was that the mere presence of a pipeline requires a certain type of analysis at the time of sale, and it is very expensive.”

It would cost somewhere between $3,000 to $10,000 to do the first level of analysis, and anywhere between $50,000 and $200,000 if you do the second level of analysis.

“Doing that type of analysis is not ordinary in ag land, but ag land doesn’t normally have a pipeline,” O’Hara said.

There also would not be many full-time jobs created by the pipeline project, O’Hara said.

It would be unlikely that more than several pipefitters would be on the project from the very beginning to the very end, and Goss and everyone else figured that more than 80 percent of the workers would not be from Nebraska.

During the public hearing, many others who testified brought up the cultural and social issues that come with the construction of the pipeline

Bob Allpress, a rancher in Keya Paha County said that there are earth lodge sites and a possible Native American burial site on his land. These are all in the path of the pipeline, the Omaha World-Herald reported.

“Disturbing those would be wrong,” Allpress said. “This is preservation of our history.”

TransCanada has not been allowed to investigate Allpress’s land yet. Matt John, a spokesman for TransCanada, said work will be stopped if anything is found, and they will have to work with the state and federal government to determine what to do.

The Keystone XL Pipeline also crosses The Ponca Trail of Tears, the trail the Ponca walked on their way to Oklahoma, in two spots. The Ponca were forced to leave their land and several members died on the trail. However, TransCanada did not find any historic properties when it investigated one of the sites.

The Public Service Commission has to decide to approve the route or propose an alternate route by Nov. 23.