Randy Thompson is a landowner fighting to protect his legacy, his heritage, his economic activity and his grandkids' clean drinking water.
He is at the heart of our pipeline efforts in Nebraska and the man behind over 25 locally organized I Stand with Randy events that took place across our state, including one where we circled Gov. Heineman's mansion to "Shine a Light" on his lack of leadership on this issue.
Our water, our heritage and our legacies do not have price tags.
Our number one economic activity in Nebraska--Agriculture--does, and it's about $15 billion a year. The TransCanada Keystone XL tarsands pipeline puts all of that at risk.
At a time when politics is dividing our nation, the pipeline has unified Nebraskans in a way no one expected. I first wrote about the pipeline over a year ago when the State Department held their first round of hearings.
What TransCanada did not realize when they started their effort to cut across our state and our main water supply is the deep and diverse resistance they would face.
Nebraskans from African immigrants who lost their tribal leaders in the fight over a Shell oil pipeline in the 1990s, to grandparents, to local artists and musicians, to farmers and ranchers, to young people, we all stand with Randy.
In a sense, each one of us is Randy. We are all fighting, with everything we got, to protect our land, our water and our legacies.
All sources of energy have some risks. None of us are naive to think otherwise.
The problem with the Keystone pipeline is we do not know all of the risks in order to make a full responsible assessment as a state and as a nation.
Here are just a few of the pipeline risks:
1) TransCanada will not disclose the chemicals mixed with the tarsands oil in order to make it liquid. Therefore, local first responders have no idea on how to respond to a leak or a fire. In North Dakota the local firefighters were given a fancy brochure with a 1-800 number to call if they see a leak or a fire and told by TransCanada to just keep folks away from the spill until they arrive...which can be up to 6 hours later.
2) Our federal, state and local governments do not know how to clean-up tarsands oil spills and do not know the short and long term health impacts. The federal government has confirmed our pipeline system and standards were not built to handle tarsands oil. The tarsands oil spill in Michigan's Kalamazoo river last summer is still trying to be cleaned up. The original price tag was a few million and experts thought it would take few months to clean up. Over a year later, the price tag is over $500 million and they have no idea how they will clean up the tarsands oil that is sticking to the bottom of their river bed.
3) TransCanada under-estimated the number of spills that will occur over the lifetime of the pipe. They said 12 spills, when an independent study by Nebraska Professor Stansbury found it is more like 91 spills that could leak almost 6 million gallons of tarsands oil and chemicals into the Platte River. A local artist did an amazing print to visually show how damaging and devastating 91 leaks will be for the Ogallala Aquifer that provides 85% of Nebraskans' clean drinking water.
The TransCanada pipeline is about Canada's economy. Not the United States economy. Right now, Canada has invested billions into the tarsands industry and their oil is "landlocked." Meaning they have to sell their oil at cheaper rates because they cannot get it to higher-paying customers like China.
That is why TransCanada wants to cut thru our state and our country with their risky and dirty tarsands oil with no regard to our land and water. They need to get their oil to the port to make money. And yes, it boils down to that simple fact.
Given those facts, Randy--a Nebraska landowner refusing to sign his land over to TransCanada--sums it up best:
"Is there anything on this earth that people will not destroy or put at risk just to make a profit?"
Whenever we look at energy sources, we must ensure safety standards are in place. And that is simply not being done before with the massive and risky TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.
We are protecting our families, our land and our water supply, and none of us are ready to put that at risk for oil that is not even guaranteed for US consumption.
We need oil to run our country. No doubt. Agreed.
What we need though is safer, American-owned oil pipelines that generate energy for our country. Not risky oil pipeline projects that sell the oil on the international market to the highest bidder.
We also need leaders who live up to their word about building--right now--a new energy economy, one not based on fossil fuels.
Energy independence should not be some political slogan that folks running for office pull out using pictures of farmers and ranchers, the kind of guys that look just like Randy.
If we are serious about energy independence, we cannot support the TransCanada pipeline.
Our elected officials from county commissioners, to state senators, to Members of Congress, to our Governor, to our Secretary of State and to our President have a deep responsibility and role to make sure business as usual with Big Oil running over our families, our land and our water is not the status quo.
Because in the end, our elected officials, who ALL have a role in this pipeline, have a choice:
Do our elected officials stand with Randy and all of us concerned about our land and water or do they stand with TransCanada, a foreign corporation who simply needs to get their dirty and risky tarsands oil to a port in order to sell it to the highest bidder?
Because in the end, each one of us is Randy and no foreign oil company will cross our land, our water and our legacies without a fight.
*Stand with Randy, Get More Info*
If you want to join Nebraska and our "Stand with Randy" campaign, head on over to www.boldnebraska.org. We have an action page set up and ready for you to join us.
You can also buy a "Stand with Randy" t-shirt.
Join thousands of fellow Americans in DC for the "Stop the Pipeline: Sit in at the White House" civil disobedience event. Over a dozen Nebraskans will stand proudly in DC, on August 22 and again on Sept 3, shoulder to shoulder, to stop the TransCanada pipeline.
"Last time I checked our water is not red or blue, its clear and that's the way it should be which is why we need to stop the TransCanada pipeline." -Randy Thompson, Nebraska landowner