For eight hours last night, Nebraskans at a public meeting in Albion shared their views on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline — most of which were unfavorable. From Nebraska Watchdog:

An estimated 800 people filled a huge metal county fairgrounds building Tuesday night to talk about a proposed $7 billion oil pipeline that would be built through Nebraska en route from Canada to Texas. …

It was a sometimes rowdy crowd, as many opponents to the pipeline booed or applauded speakers — despite admonitions not to — while supporters of the project were less vocal. At times it seemed like boots versus suits, as many people wearing boots, caps and jeans — farmers, ranchers and landowners — testified against the pipeline while many pro-business and free market advocates and people who would help build the pipeline testified in favor of it.

The hearing was the final step in the state’s environmental consideration of TransCanada’s proposal of a new pipeline route. In October, Nebraska gave preliminary approval to the new plan, noting that it avoids the sandy region of the state over the Ogallala Aquifer. So if the pipeline were to rupture (ahem), the state suggests, the damage wouldn’t permanently destroy a critical water source. That would be an improvement.

A man holds up a container of oil and sand as he testifies at last night's hearing
boldnebraska
A man holds up a container of oil and sand as he testifies at last night’s hearing.

Unless you live near the proposed route.

People such as Bonny Kilmurry of Atkinson said the pipeline would threaten her land and water supply if the pipeline leaks into the aquifer.

“Water is our lifeblood,” she said. “We can live without oil. We cannot live without water.” …

One of the most passionate voices of the night was Susan Luebbe, a Holt County rancher whose land was in the original pipeline route.

“There’s a reason they call it flyover country, because the Midwest does not matter until everyone bitches enough,” she said loudly. She criticized the [Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality]’s $2 million environmental review on the revised route as disorganized, a shamble and embarrassing.

Bold Nebraska, an organization that has taken a leading role in the fight against the pipeline, released a “Citizens’ Review” of the state’s environmental findings. Among the group’s concerns is that the new route would still pass through a sandhill region, marked by a type of soil that absorbs precipitation that ends up in the aquifer. In other words: The new route may have the same problem that the old route did. Bold Nebraska also believes that the state “simply published information given to them by TransCanada.”

Earlier in the day, pipeline supporters rallied in Omaha — led by the local Republican Party, Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, and the Laborers union. Here’s a photo of the event, held at the Laborers hall. (At political events, Laborers typically wear orange.) Organized labor is split on the pipeline.

Of course, the status of the pipeline in Nebraska is only moot if the pipeline as a whole is approved — a decision that rests some 1,200 miles from Albion, Neb., at the White House. Recently, hundreds of people have also shown up there, also hoping to have their opinions heard.