People versus Pipe

December 2nd, 2014

You may have heard that on Friday, September 5, the Nebraska Supreme Court heard arguments for thirty minutes from both sides of a case that very well may determine the outcome of the Keystone XL pipeline cutting a swath through Nebraska landowners’ farms and ranches.

This case won’t determine whether the pipe is good or bad, but it will determine if the siting of the Nebraska route was done legally or not. As it stands now, based on a previous district court ruling, the Nebraska legislature passed an unconstitutional law that took the routing decision out of the Public Service Commission (PSC) and gave it to one person, the governor.

The Nebraska Constitution does not grant this power to the governor and for good reason. Nebraskans want decisions like these, dating back to the railroad days, to stay out of the hands of politicians and remain in the hands of a nonpartisan committee, in this case the PSC.

But when Governor Heineman approved the KXL route, he also was giving TransCanada the power of eminent domain, to condemn if necessary and take control of private landowners’ property forever, even though TransCanada does not yet have a permit to build the pipeline into the United States. This is a perfect example of why politicians were not supposed to be part of the decision in the first place.

It is impossible to guess the Nebraska Supreme Court’s ruling. If it goes the landowners’ way, TransCanada would have to go through the process of applying through the PSC. If the case goes TransCanada’s way, they must still get the approval of the President, as the pipeline would cross our international border.

But what of the simple right and wrong of the pipe? Chances are you own some property; it may be a farm, ranch, business, or a home. Say a foreign company had the opportunity to make billions of dollars for their stockholders, but only if they were allowed by the government to take an easement on your property. What would you do?

Traditionally, eminent domain is used to take private property only when there is a common benefit the actual property owner will realize; a road for example, schools, a railroad, but remember, we are talking about a foreign corporation who intends to use the profits to pay stockholders.

And what about the risk? Are Nebraskans really not concerned the about the risk of a DilBit oil spill and the damage it could do to property, land, water, and most importantly, our health? Of course we are concerned.

TransCanada says the pipe will be safe. They won’t say it will be fail-safe. TransCanada tells us it is a risk we can live with. Nebraskans are stepping up and saying the risk is not worth the reward. Governor Heineman said the pipeline should not cross the Ogallala Aquifer. The governor then said it could cross the aquifer.

So what would you do if a foreign corporation in the quest for additional profits came knocking on your door asking for access and easements on your property? And, they appeared to be doing it without legal permission? This is exactly what is happening to some of our neighbors, and this is wrong.

Although there is a place for eminent domain, this is not that place. Nebraskans are being asked to give more than they would ever receive. The Keystone XL will add fifteen permanent jobs to the Omaha area. That’s it. Counties will receive some property tax for fifteen years until the pipeline is fully depreciated. That’s it. Sure there will be some temporary construction jobs that will fly through, but they will go away quickly. That’s it. There is no guarantee, once this dirty oil is refined that it will stay in the U.S. It will enter the world market. That’s it.

I think Nebraskans are smarter than this. We are great stewards of the land and water, and should never compromise these values for a few pieces of silver. That’s it.

We won’t know the outcome of the Supreme Court for several months. I hope they understand the reasons why politicians were removed from this process a hundred years ago, and the personal sacrifice the people of Nebraska would be forced to make. I hope they decide for the people. That’s it.

Congress, how long do you expect us to wait?

December 2nd, 2014

The number of illegal immigrants tossed around in the media is eleven million, but nobody really knows for sure. What we can be sure of is that for the last 28 years, the United States Congress has allowed millions and millions of illegal immigrants to enter our country.

Last week it all came to a head once again as President Obama, “with a stroke of his pen” gave a temporary stay to the deportation of 5 million of those who entered our country illegally.

Many are quick to jump on the President, myself included, not for his judgment, but for his process. This is America where we have three equal branches of government clearly defined in our Constitution. Congress makes law, the president enforces law, and the judiciary interprets law.

So, how did we get to this point? This is a simple one. Congress failed to do their job. Everyone knows the immigration system is broken. It is Congress, and only Congress’ job to fix it. But for decades they have been afraid of their own shadow with both parties afraid to touch the issue in fear it would cost them votes. Well, Congress, how long do you expect us to wait?

Conventional wisdom says that the Democrats didn’t want to tackle the issue because they are for open borders hoping to increase the number of Democratic voters. The Republicans are in the pocket of big business that enjoys the profits afforded to them by cheap immigrant labor. So rather then fix the problem, both parties have been insubordinate in carrying out the job we elected them to do.

If President Obama were the leader we hoped for, he would have called the leaders of both chambers together, worked out a compromise, had a bill introduced, reconciled and eventually passed into law. But Obama is not one to negotiate. It is his way, or his way, and fearing he has now lost both houses of Congress, he felt he must act alone if he was to get any movement on the immigration fiasco.

By doing so, Obama now must share the blame, which before belonged solely to Congress.

The political thermometer is at its boiling point. There is a sour, hateful and vengeful atmosphere in Washington, making it difficult to do the people’s business. All of this could have and should have been avoided if Congress would stop their putrid partisan politics and go to work every day like hundreds of millions of Americans do, and get some work done!

Seal the border first. Without a secure border, there can be no discussion. America has a right and a duty to know who is entering our country and for what reason. It is a national security issue of great importance, especially in the world we live in today.

Then we must deal with the millions of folks who entered illegally. If you are of the mind we put them all on trains and ship them home you are delusional. It won’t happen, so move on to discussions of what we must do.

What President Obama “decreed” is a step in the right direction? Many of the immigrants came to America for the exact same reason our ancestors came. They want a better life, freedom and opportunity. They want to work, raise a family and be as American as you and me. We must identify these folks and give them the opportunity to make their dream come true.

I would have done they exact same thing had I been in there shoes. Is it fair to those trying to immigrate legally, heck no its not fair. That is part of the problem and the very reason we need comprehensive immigration reform, so we can change outdated law to legally allow immigrants to come to America without having to wait years, decades or longer.

If you are upset, and I am, then look no further than your congressman or congresswoman. They are the problem, they are the solution, but until they stop playing politics and start governing, I fear the worst.

Immigration is only one of the indications the partisanship must end. We have an $18 trillion dollar debt, Social Security and Medicare nearing insolvency, unaffordable entitlements, a tax code littered with unfair loop holes,a crumbling national infrastructure, a declining education system, and never ending waste fraud and abuse, all issues which need immediate attention.

It doesn’t matter which party is in power, or which party you belong to. Every one of us needs to take a little control of the country and demand our representatives in Washington do our work. If not, we must fire them, and most importantly, they need to know this now, not just a few weeks before an election. Our message should be, “Do the work, or we’ll find somebody who will.”

Every day on this page we publish the contact information for Adrian Smith, our congressman, and Deb Fischer and Mike Johanns, our senators. If you don’t let them know you expect more work and fewer excuses, things won’t change.

One of the prices of freedom is practicing the responsibility to self-govern. If we don’t, they will as President Obama did last week, and that folks is not America.

The Keystone XL pipeline is dead

December 2nd, 2014

America is waking up to the fact the Keystone XL pipeline is dead. This poorly conceived idea had a life of its own early on, but once Nebraska correctly diagnosed the problems, the pipeline has been on life support powered only by expensive lobbyists and posturing politicians ever since.

The only place it still shows signs of life is in Washington, where is has been relegated to nothing more than a meaningless poker chip, to be wagered back and forth by both political parties until it finally goes the way of Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere.” Congress seems more concerned with making money for China (who has invested over $30 billion into the tarsands) than it does protecting America.

“But, wait.” you say. “Congress passed a bill just last week authorizing the KXL, and the Senate will vote this week.” You are correct. But President Obama will veto the bill anyway, and since approval still depends on a presidential permit, the only thing the House and Senate are doing is what they do best, political posturing while bloviating nothing but ignorance on this issue.

“But wait.” You say. “America needs that oil.” In light of the great expansion of American oil in the past six years, the KXL has become a non-issue. There is actually a glut of oil that is forcing prices so low it is nearing the point where the Canadian tarsands cannot be mined profitably.

Listen folks, there was only one reason the KXL was needed anyway. There was so much oil in the upper Midwest that refineries were discounting the Canadian tar sands because they had too much oil to refine. The only way tarsand oil could be profitable was if they could get it to a port refinery where it could be turned into usable fuel and exported at much higher world prices.

Oh, the KXL might have gone through had TransCanada not been so greedy and had followed their existing Keystone I route. But no, they decided it would be cheaper to build if they drew a straight line between Alberta and Steele City, Nebraska saving $2 billion in capital costs. Heck with the farmers and ranchers who are trying to protect their land and water as TransCanada would take control of their land using eminent domain. And, heck with the Nebraska Sandhills and America’s most valuable natural resource, the Ogallala Aquifer.

TransCanada should have listened to Governor Dave Heineman and Senator Mike Johanns when they said not to run the pipe through the Sandhills and the center of the Ogallala Aquifer. Oh sure, TransCanada moved their route about 20 miles to the east up in the Sandhills, but in doing so the new route actually crossed more miles of the aquifer than before. Nebraskans saw right through this scheme while the politicians took TransCanada’s bait, hook, line and sinker.

So now, America owes a big “THANK YOU!” to Nebraska, who doggedly exposed the truth about this project, the truth this pipeline was never about a pipeline to America, but a pipeline through America.

Nebraskans correctly pointed out that the contents of this pipe is not crude oil in the sense we know it, but a highly toxic concoction of thick gooey tarsands diluted with lighter weight petroleum products like Naphtha, a known carcinogen capable of causing birth defects and reproductive harm.

Nebraskans came together and said there is no way we will allow 33 million gallons (per day) of this poison to travel under extremely high pressure just a half inch (thickness of the pipe) from our soil and water.

Nebraskans correctly pointed out that Congress’ own House Ways and Means Committee didn’t even consider these tarsands to be oil, which gives the owners and or refiners a tax exemption by not requiring them to pay 8 cents per barrel into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund like American oil has to pay, saving hundreds of millions of dollars for owners of the tarsands.

Nebraskans weighed in on the outrageous claims of hundreds of thousands of jobs and said, “Phooey!” Even the study done by Nebraska’s own Department of Environmental Quality stated there would be only 15 permanent jobs created in Nebraska.

So, Nebraska “Pipeline Fighters”, as they have come to be known, thank you! Thank you for stopping this ill-conceived project. Thank you for protecting Nebraska’s land, water and rights. Thank you for standing in adversity while those who chose to listen only to pro-pipe lobbying groups splattered us with misconceptions.

So this KXL thing is over and done with.

Oh, Congress will continue to play with it like a worn out toy for a couple more years, but soon, the people we elected to represent us will become as smart as us! They will see there are no more political points to be made by making over-exaggerated claims about job numbers and by using some term made up solely to promote the KXL, “North American Energy Independence”.

Congress, move on. You have a country called America to run!

How will “Nebraska” vote – to protect Nebraska or protect foreign oil?

December 2nd, 2014

Our Central and Western Nebraska Washington representatives, Sen. Mike Johanns, Sen. Deb Fischer and Rep. Adrian Smith are poised to cast their votes on the highly controversial Keystone KX pipeline. Fact is, as this is written the House is debating the issue.

A lot has changed in the past six years since TransCanada applied for the KXL permit. This delay has given all of us time to learn more about the purpose and the risk of this project. It was a dangerous idea six years ago, but now, in light of the energy boom in America, it is a stupid idea.

So, what do our Nebraska representatives know and how will they vote?

Here’s what they know:

Johanns, Fischer and Smith know the reason for the pipeline is so all of the companies and countries that have bought into the oil sand industry (China has invested over $30 billion) can get higher oil prices if and only if they can get the tarsand oil (Diluted Bitumen, or DilBit for short) to a port refinery.

Johanns, Fischer and Smith know that the House Ways and Means Committee (Smith sits on this committee) has ruled that Canadian tar-sands are neither oil nor petroleum (according to an IRS memo) and are therefore exempt from paying the eight cents per barrel into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, like American oil must pay.

Johanns, Fischer and Smith know that in the last six years America is well on its way to oil energy independence which means the USA will soon not need the Canadian tarsand oil at all.

Johanns, Fischer and Smith know this pipeline would still cross areas of the Sandhills and be buried over and in some cases directly through the 250 miles of the Ogallala Aquifer it will cross. Johanns wrote that the pipeline is the wrong route because it would cross the center of the Ogallala Aquifer. After TransCanada’s re-route, the new pipeline would cross even more miles of the Aquifer than it did when Johanns objected!

Johanns, Fischer and Smith know that DilBit tarsands sink in water.

Johanns, Fischer and Smith know that the tarsands must be diluted with condensates like Naptha so it can be pumped at extremely high pressures through a pipe. They also know that Naptha is highly toxic and can cause cancer and birth defects and can do reproductive harm.

Johanns, Fischer and Smith know that TransCanada, a foreign owned company, will use eminent domain to take control of Nebraska farmers’ and ranchers’ land, not for the public’s common good, but to make billions in profit for their stockholders.

Johanns, Fischer and Smith know that the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) stated in their final report that there would only be 15 permanent jobs in Nebraska after construction of the pipeline.

Johanns, Fischer and Smith know that the State Department never did complete a required “worst-case” scenario study in regards to a major oil spill. They also know that the Nebraska DEQ never did complete their risk assessment portion of their oil spill study.

Johanns, Fischer and Smith know that the DilBit spill in Michigan has been in the cleanup process for over four years and has cost over a billion dollars and still, they cannot get the oil out of the Kalamazoo River.

Johanns, Fischer and Smith believe that Nebraskans should risk our land, our water and our health so owners of the Canadian oil can get it to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Johanns, Fischer and Smith know that TransCanada has not been truthful in stating the number of jobs the pipeline would create, and has been trying to stop Nebraska counties from enacting zoning regulations that would better protect agricultural concerns.

And finally, Johanns, Fischer and Smith know what TransCanada has been telling them, that this pipeline will be the safest pipeline in the country. But it will not be failsafe. Pipes leak. DilBit pipes leak. Dilbit has components that can kill people.

You would think, or at least I would think that Senators Johanns and Fischer and Representative Smith would be standing arm in arm with Nebraska farmers and ranchers, many who are in their same Republican Party, who do not want to put their land, their families and our future at great risk when Nebraska has so little to gain.

So now you know what Johanns, Fisher and Smith know. Let’s watch to see if they will vote to protect Nebraska or to protect foreign oil. Their vote will undoubtedly show us where their loyalties lay.

What’s in the pipe (KeystoneXL)?

June 21st, 2014

It has never been about the pipe. It has always been about what is in the pipe. The diluted Bitumens (DilBits) that will go through the Keystone XL at the rate of 33,000,000 gallons per day are very hazardous. TransCanada recently released some Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for some of the DilBit blends:

Here are some direct quotes from those MSDS:
• “May cause cancer.”
• “May impair fertility”
• “May cause heritable genetic damage”
• “Danger of serious irreversible effects by a single exposure”
• “May cause serious injury to blood forming organs…”

The Benzene contained in DilBit caused:
• “Cancer (leukemia)”
• “Damage to the blood producing system”
• “Genetic effects”

Ecologically the MSDS stated:
• “May cause long-term adverse effects in the aquatic environment”
• “Expected to sink and migrate into the sediment”
• “Low to moderate potential to migrate through soil”
• “Has the potential to bioaccumulate”

Thirty three million gallons every day, traveling just a half-inch away from our water and our land, on its way to the Gulf refineries where it will be refined and then much of it exported to other countries.

Are we crazy?

To the Nebraskans who have led the fight to delay the KXL project, I say, “Thank you for reminding us that our heritage and legacy are not for sale!”

To the foreign countries that have bought into much of the Canadian tar-sands, I would say, “It’s your poison. It’s your problem.”