Poll Finds Pipeline Support

Nebraska Court Fight Over Keystone XL Pipeline Continues

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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Several environmental groups oppose the Keystone XL pipeline out of concern it would endanger the Ogallala Aquifer in the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region of Nebraska. (DTN/The Progressive Farmer file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Seven years after TransCanada filed for a federal permit to build the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, a new public opinion poll conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute shows Americans continue to support the project.

The telephone poll of more than 900 randomly called Americans found public support for the building of the pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska. When asked if they support or oppose the building of the Keystone pipeline, 68% of respondents said they support it, while 49% indicated they "strongly support" the project.

Cindy Schild, API's downstream operations senior manager for refining and oil sands, said during a conference call Thursday the Obama administration continues to play politics with the project despite public support.

"As we mark seven years since the initial permit application was filed for the Keystone XL pipeline, 67% of American voters said failure to act on KXL has hurt our economy and energy security," she said. "Sixty-eight percent support building the project and 66% are more likely to support a candidate who supports approving Keystone. Delaying the pipeline continues to be a missed opportunity for the thousands of hard-working men and women in the labor industry. The 42,000 jobs and the $2 billion in wages that could be made building Keystone remain out of their reach because this president refuses to make the right decision."

An ongoing legal battle also continues in Nebraska where a handful of landowners along the proposed pipeline route have not agreed to sell land to TransCanada. The company, however, said it has sealed the deal with the vast majority of landowners along the route.

TransCanada is required to hold off on eminent domain proceedings after a Nebraska judge issued a temporary injunction in February to require TransCanada to wait until cases filed on behalf of landowners play out in court.

New cases challenging the company's use of eminent domain were filed in two separate Nebraska counties after the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled against the landowners in a recent case challenging a Nebraska law that allows the state's governor to approve a pipeline route.

COURT FIGHT CONTINUES

Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, one of several environmental groups opposing the pipeline out of concern it would endanger the Ogallala Aquifer in the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region of Nebraska, said she believes landowners will win.

"TransCanada does not have eminent domain powers at this time," she told DTN. "Their route is also in limbo. The court date is Oct. 19, and will certainly then go to the Nebraska Supreme Court because either side will appeal."

At this time, Kleeb said, about 100 landowners continue to refuse to sign with TransCanada in Nebraska.

The state's highest court did not rule on the merits of the case in its most recent decision on Keystone XL, only ruling that landowners in the case before the court did not have standing since TransCanada did not invoke eminent domain.

"We are very confident we will win at county and Supreme Court levels," she said. "That leaves TC without eminent domain and without a route until at least late 2016."

Kleeb said she doesn't believe the API poll tells the whole story about continued opposition to the project.

"When you tell folks basic facts: foreign oil corporation using eminent domain, majority for export, foreign steel, still going through Sandhills and aquifer, etc., etc., support drops," she said.

"I don't need a poll to tell me this export pipeline is wrong; I have farmers and ranchers I look at every day, the ones who would be forced to live with this risk, that confirm every hour spent on stopping this pipeline is the right thing."

The national poll found 83% believe a president should not have the sole power to decide national energy infrastructure projects.

Seventy-nine percent believe U.S. foreign policy should support Canadian oil at least as much as Iranian oil, while 78% said they believe building Keystone XL would help create jobs in the U.S. and keep energy dollars here in North America.

"Five of his (President Barack Obama's) own administration's reviews have determined the project to be safe and environmentally sound," API's Schild said. "Yet the administration has turned its back on our closest ally and trading partner in favor of professional activists who are advocating a 'leave it in the ground' approach to energy. It's ironic that the U.S. would strike a deal to allow Iranian crude onto the global market while refusing to give our closest trading partner, Canada, the most efficient access to U.S. refineries. This foot dragging is an assault on American workers. It's politics at its worst."

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley