Another Nebraska Republican is joining the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline, the planned conduit from Canada's tar sands fields to refineries in Texas. Last week, Republican Gov. Dave Heineman wrote to President Obama and Sec. of State Hillary Clinton in opposition to the pipeline, which could potentially endanger the state's Ogallala Aquifer, a critical water source for the state's agriculture industry.
Today, Sen. Mike Johanns joined Heineman in urging Obama to reject the pipeline proposal.
“I support Governor Heineman’s request that President Obama and Secretary Clinton deny the current application from TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline along a route crossing Nebraska’s Sand Hills and the center of the Ogallala Aquifer,” said Johanns. “The proposed route is the wrong route. It’s clear to me, after traveling throughout the state, that most Nebraskans agree a better route is needed.
“Amid much discussion about authorities, one thing is irrefutable and that is the State Department’s authority to approve or reject TransCanada’s current permit application. The Governor has now unequivocally stated that the application should be denied; I agree. TransCanada should be forced to select a more appropriate pipeline route."
Note that neither Heineman nor Johanns are opposed to the idea of a pipeline, it's a pretty classic case of not-in-my-backyard. Sen. Ben Nelson joins them in that, though he says a route through Nebraska but not over the aquifer would be acceptable (although a look at the maps suggests that finding a route through the state that's not over the aquifer would be a challenge). Thus far, he's passing the buck on opposing it to Heineman.
But it's NIMBY for good reason. The Ogalla Aquifer, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, is one of the world's largest, stretching from South Dakota to Texas. It provides an astounding 30 percent of the groundwater used in the nation for irrigation. That's because 27 percent of the irrigated land in the U.S. lies over the 174,000 square mile aquifer. Of particular concern to the people who live in those 174,000 square miles is the fact that 82 percent of them drink its water.