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Our World

July 10, 2013

Nebraska county board tables resolution opposing Keystone XL pipeline construction

YORK, Neb. — The York County Board of Commissioners has postponed a vote on a resolution opposing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in the eastern Nebraska county.

Several dozen people crammed into the boardroom Tuesday morning, some to oppose the measure and others to support it, the York News-Times reported.

The resolution would have the board state its opposition to the pipeline and, should the pipeline be built, commit the board to use its power to protect residents’ welfare and resources. The tabled measure will return for board reconsideration in two weeks.

County officials have cautioned that their power to regulate pipelines is limited, and an attempt to impose safety restrictions could trigger a lawsuit.

“We want to work with you, to explore your authority to protect the citizens of this county and minimize the county’s economic burdens,” said Jenni Harrington, one of the York County landowners calling themselves the Good Life Alliance who submitted the resolution. “This resolution says that York County understands the risk is great and there is little reward for York County citizens.”

The much-debated Keystone XL pipeline could carry 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf coast. The Obama administration is still considering whether to approve the project. Supporters say the project will create jobs and stimulate economic growth, while opponents argue that the project contributes to global warming and could contaminate underground water supplies.

TransCanada spokesman Jeff Rauh said the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality spent a year investigating the project before it was approved within the state.

“It’s important to move this discussion forward to the facts,” Rauh said. “There are points of concern that may need to be addressed.”

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline have turned to local and county officials in recent months in an effort to strengthen resistance to the project. The anti-pipeline resolutions are largely symbolic, but intended to show the federal government that local officials and residents are concerned about the pipeline.

Pipeline foes are also pushing for zoning regulations to keep the pipeline away from homes, although York County Attorney Candace Dick cautioned that counties don’t have the power to impose local safety standards.

The alliance says it’s concerned about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline - and if it is approved on the federal level, what the county can do to protect their water, soil, livelihoods and health should there ever be a spill. They say they are also concerned about road conditions and other situations that might arise during construction and throughout the pipeline’s life.

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