Bill McKibben appeared yesterday in Los Angeles at the LA Green Festival, where he again announced some actions for next week around the Keystone XL pipeline. Activists will surround the White House on November 6, one year before the 2012 Presidential elections. “You can’t occupy the White House, but we can surround,” McKibben said. Additional actions will take place around the country and around the world (including at the US Embassy in London) opposing the “1,700-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet,” in McKibben’s words.
But the biggest action on the pipeline could be taking place today in the red state of Nebraska, which has the dubious honor of being in the pathway of the pipeline. In fact, the proposed route goes through the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer, a major water source for the entire Midwest. Though the State Department, in a study marred by a perceived conflict of interest, pronounced the pipeline to be safe and not representing a threat to the aquifer, Nebraska politicians beg to differ. So Gov. Dave Heineman has scheduled a special legislative session on the issue.
“The public outcry has just continued to get louder and louder, stronger and stronger,” said Annette Dubas, a state senator who is among those who want to consider how Nebraska might regulate such projects, but who seemed as surprised as anyone last week when Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, called legislators in to a special session on the issue.
The outcome of the session, which could last for two weeks, seems uncertain. For one thing, no one knows how many members of Nebraska’s 49-member unicameral Legislature will support adding standards that would give the state new control over pipelines within its borders [...]
“The key decision for current pipeline discussions is the permitting decision that will be made by the Obama administration, which is why I have urged President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to deny the permit,” Governor Heineman said in announcing the special legislative session. “However, I believe Nebraskans are expecting our best efforts to determine if alternatives exist.”
It’s unclear what those alternatives are, though the Nebraska legislature will certainly try to seek them. TransCanada, the pipeline company, has worked to convince legislators the pipeline is safe, rerouting is not needed, and in any event, the company would post a bond to cover cleanup costs for any spills; they clearly don’t want to change the proposed route around the aquifer — that would mess of their approval schedule — so Nebraskans concerned about that threat have reason to worry.
I don’t know how much Nebraska can do on this, but it’s definitely unusual to see so much attention paid – from a red state – on a dirty oil pipeline going through their land.