Opponents of a controversial oil pipeline being built across the heart of the U.S. are making several stops in Iowa this week, warning residents the next version of the pipeline could be cutting through the Hawkeye State. Randy Thompson, a farmer from central Nebraska, says his greatest fear is the widespread environmental damage that would come if TransCanada’s Keystone X-L pipeline ever ruptures.
“That’s one of my major concerns,” Thompson says. “I’m also very concerned about the fact we have a foreign corporation coming in here and stripping us of our individual property rights. We have a company coming into America and taking land that belongs to American landowners for their own personal gain and use and that’s not right.” He says landowners are being compensated but “it amounts to a little bit of nothing.”
Thompson raises corn and cattle in central Nebraska’s Merrick County, which he says was in the pipeline’s original path, until TransCanada bowed to pressure and moved the proposed route away from environmentally-sensitive areas. Those include the Ogallala Aquifer and the Nebraska Sandhills.
A Hollywood actress was arrested last week during a protest of the pipeline’s southern leg in east Texas. Thompson says he knows the elderly Texas landowner who was taken into custody along with Daryl Hannah. “Eleanor Fairchild, she’s 78 years old and she got arrested on her own ranch for criminal trespass,” Thompson says. “That’s because of an eminent domain court ruling that granted the rights to TransCanada. She went out there and got in front of the construction equipment, they had her arrested and taken off to jail.”
TransCanada’s permit was denied by President Obama in January and the company has reapplied to build, though the pipeline’s future remains in limbo. The seven-billion-dollar project would carry crude 17-hundred miles from the oil fields of western Canada to the refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas.
Supporters say the pipeline would create thousands of construction jobs while the oil it would provide would help reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign petroleum. Thompson says that’s a “ridiculous” argument. “If you listen to the political rhetoric surrounding Keystone XL, you would think it has some kind of a magical power,” Thompson says.
“Politicians say these few thousand temporary jobs somehow will solve America’s unemployment problem and somehow this oil that’s flowing across our nation and then on overseas, that’s supposed to be solving our country’s energy problems.” Thompson is convinced the oil would be sold on the world market, lining the pockets of big oil execs and having no beneficial impact on domestic pump prices. He says Iowans need to be aware and be on guard.
“There’s trillions of barrels of this stuff up in Canada and the oil companies desperately want to get it down to where they can ship it overseas,” Thompson says. “They’re looking for easy passage. It’s not to say that sometime in the future, they might look to Iowa.” Thompson is being joined on the Iowa trek by a minister, a Native American leader, an Iowa legislator and representatives from at least three environmental groups.
Oglala Lakota Vice President Tom Poor Bear from Pine Ridge, Nebraska, claims the pipeline will violate the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty and jeopardize the safety of the water supply for the Oglala Lakota Nation. The group has stops planned Wednesday in Des Moines and Ames, and on Thursday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Davenport.