Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Overflowing With Wisdom

As the decision from the State Department came down last Friday to delay the official ruling on the Keystone pipeline, we had a chuckle or two among our staff - in part because the announcement happened just before Earth Day.

Even while the 'Cowboy and Indian Alliance' was marching around the National Mall yesterday on Earth Day to protest the Keystone pipeline, the potentially disastrous project remains in the same place it's been since February. That's when a Nebraska judge verified that the political runaround favored by TransCanada was unconstitutional, leaving the massive oil corporation with no legally approved route through the Cornhusker State for the Keystone XL project.

That inconvenient truth didn't seem to deter Politico's Ben White on Monday, as Emily Atkin noted over at Think Progress. White railed against the delay on CNBC, saying that the State Department just didn't seem to understand its role in the whole process. Many other pundits on both the right and left simply insisted the decision on Keystone was a purely political one.

What's been clear for a very long time to native Nebraskans like us who care about the future, is that folks like Ben White, TransCanada, and the "it's all about politics" crowd are the ones who don't seem to "get it" when it comes to Keystone. So let us help make this brutally clear: Nebraskans don't want the pipeline, for some very good reasons, and those reasons aren't going to change.

We've written and drawn more than a few times over the last few years about the Keystone pipeline, and the biggest reason for Nebraska to refuse this project that we always come back to is water.

The Keystone XL pipeline, if it is ever authorized in Nebraska, would go over part of the Ogallala Aquifer, the worlds largest underground source of clean water. That water has come to be more than just a symbol for Nebraska and the other states on the Great Plains. It's the source of water that allows America to feed itself and much of the rest of the world, even as drought has become somewhat normal again for the region.

If that source of water is ever contaminated, as a undetected leak of tar sands oil and related chemicals could easily do, it wouldn't just be a minor environmental event. It could mean that a large section of the midwest would no longer be able to grow food, or allow people to have access to drinking water. No water, no crops, no herds, no people, no business, no income, no food.

No kidding. All it would take is one wrong spill. Just one, and you could say good bye to our entire home state, permanently.

Sure - there are pundits who say that other elements of environmental responsibility, like the expected new emission rules, far outweigh the impact of Keystone.

We also understand how many Americans handle issues that don't happen right in their own backyard - badly. Four years after the Gulf oil disaster, and twenty-five years after the Valez oil spill in Alaska, most Americans have no idea that both disasters are still ongoing - including, in the case of the Gulf spill, BP's attempts to wriggle out of any serious legal penalties.

That, in a nutshell, is why Nebraskans continue to refuse Keystone, and why Americans who care about the environment still celebrate Earth Day every year: To remind Americans that these fights to keep our water, air, and environment clean are a daily struggle, one that we should all be paying attention to.

If we don't, we literally may lose our entire state. One spill is all it could take.

Knowing that, it shouldn't be difficult for anyone to understand why Nebraskans would prefer TransCanada to "get lost."

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