I spent the whole day sitting on a chair inside a convention center in York, NE (pop 7957) yesterday. Ok, only 9.5 hours, but still. At the 8.5 hour mark I was allowed my chance to speak.
My turn came after 119 other speakers came and went. I kept track of the pro and con positions. Most of the early speakers were pro-KXL pipeline. They were almost all union members with nearly identical comments obviously written for them to read. Almost all were from out of state. Their mantra was the same: “I work hard, am well-trained, have a god-fearin’ family. So approve this pipeline.” They were bussed in, paid to testify, and left early.
The majority of speakers — and there were ultimately more than 170 — were anti-KXL pipeline. They outnumbered the proponents by more than 2:1. Only one opponent, Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska, was paid to be there.
Opponents included farmers, ranchers, and city dwellers. All were Nebraskans. Some were landowners in the pipeline’s path. Most, like me, were people who get water from the aquifer threatened by the project.
Some people brought their children with them to the microphone. Several farmers pointed out that on this warm spring day they really needed to be in the field planting, but they really needed to save their land more.
All opponents were passionate, polite, and well-informed. Even the ones who yelled. And the ones who cried.
I have never in my life seen so many grown men cry in public. Elderly men broke down at the microphone telling about how they loved the land and didn’t want it endangered. Young men sniffled and stammered and apologized while they told of how their fathers were losing the farms they had inherited from their fathers and their fathers before them.
Nebraskans are a stoic people. We don’t cry much, and we rarely get emotional. In Nebraska, getting active usually means getting up to get another cup of coffee.
I watched the faces of the 5 public service commissioners as these men pleaded with them to deny the export pipeline. They were not moving. It was an impressive feat, tired as they must have been, to maintain an impassive countenance.
Those against the export pipeline presented facts: only 35 permanent jobs will be created nationwide, potentially none in Nebraska; more than 100 leaks are predicted by scientists; 11 leaks are predicted by TransCanada itself; there are 0 known ways of cleaning up contamination from aquifers.
They talked about the carcinogens that will be mixed with the tar sands to make it flow, creating the diluted bitumen (not oil) that must be heated and pumped at high pressure to keep it moving. They mentioned the depth of the pipeline — 4 to 10 feet — under rivers and soil that can never be used again. They explained the revenue that will not be realized, because the TransCanada contracts call for property taxes to be paid by the landowner after just a few short years. They discussed the danger of putting pipes that have been sitting for nearly a decade rusting in a field into the ground. They told about how the leak detection systems don’t detect small leaks that can go unnoticed for years, citing numerous places were this has already occurred. They talked about how the US will not be made energy independent by accepting dirty tar sands from one foreign country pumped through the heart of the nation to refineries for export to other foreign countries.
Time and again the export pipeline opponents told the Public Service Commissioners that granting eminent domain to a foreign private corporation will set a dangerous precedent: no longer will eminent domain be reserved for projects serving public good, it will be available to anyone with a personal profit motive.
And then there’s the most important reason to cancel this project: it has been labeled GAME OVER for climate change.
Testimonies were limited to 5 minutes, and most proponents didn’t use all their time, presumably because there isn’t much to say after the word “jobs”. However, not one opponent was able to articulate all the reasons to reject KXL in the time given. That was why I was so grateful so many of us were there, because each covered new ground.
After my testimony I was approached by some one who asked me to submit it online. I will copy it below in the comments. I worried that it was a bit more caustic than that of other opponents, but was assured that it struck a welcome tone.
Several people told the PSC they did not envy them. If I had had time, I would have told them I disagreed with that. I envy them greatly. All my life I have wanted to be able to do something to change the world for the good in a significant way. If I could cast the deciding vote to cancel a project that would destroy the planet, yeah, I think that would be really great. I’d be beyond proud to do that.
If you want to help, write the Nebraska Public Service Commission here. The state defaults to NE, but you can change it. They need to be flooded with opposition to this project.
Or you can just sit back and do nothing. Only a few grown men in Nebraska are crying now. That will surely change.