Safe Sand Hills Route For Pipeline
Or Let Canadian Oil Go To China?

Today I offer some friendly advice for Governor Dave Heineman, Congressman Lee Terry and those state legislators advocating a special session to try to force the TransCanada corporation to route its $7 billion-plus Keystone XL Pipeline somewhere—anywhere—other than on the long-publicized proposed route across the Nebraska Sand  Hills and the underlying Ogallala aquifer.

(To date, Heineman, Terry and Senator Mike Johanns are on record as urging TransCanada’s rerouting of the proposed pipeline rather than trying to mandate the re-routing in a special legislative session.  As of this writing, Heineman had not yielded to the request of a few state senators that he call the Legislature into special session.)

Recent developments had not been given proper consideration when the belated calls for re-routing were voiced last  month.  Among those late-breaking developments:

–A report from a research team retained by the State Department to evaluate the long-publicized Sand Hills route.  The researchers said that the Sand Hills route poses no significant environmental threat and added this largely-ignored-to-date significant warning:  To find an alternate route at this late date would be so expensive as to be impractical, adding as much as 25% (somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion dollars) to the cost of the project.

In other words, long-publicized Sand Hills route or no Canadian-United States pipeline at all to bring Canadian tar-sand petroleum to oil refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

What then would happen to the huge tar-sand oil deposits in Canada?  A quick response from people knowledgeable in these matters:  The tar sand petroleum would probably be refined in Canada and delivered by pipeline to the Pacific Coast, pumped into tankers and delivered to an eager Chinese market.

The United States would thus be deprived of a significant new source of oil independent of the always potentially uncertain overseas sources in South America and the Middle East.

–The second development which has recently become public for consideration by the “put the pipeline somewhere else” advocates:

Publication of a thoughtful, logic-loaded article which appeared on The World-Herald’s More Commentary page—an article written by Howard Hawks, founder and chairman of the Omaha-based independent energy company Tenaska whose record includes development, construction and operation of the Northern Border Pipeline, an 823-mile $1.8 billion pipeline that transports natural gas from Canada.  Hawks wrote in The World-Herald:

“…We are confident that Keystone XL Pipeline can be among the safest in operation today.  Our perspective on this issue is grounded in building similar facilities ourselves and in the knowledge that the application of science and engineering approaches can reduce or eliminate the environmental risks.”

It seems crystal clear to me that on the issue of environmentally safe pipeline construction, Omahan Howard Hawks—who certainly has a concern for the environmental safety of the Sand Hills and the Ogallala aquifer—brings more expertise to the issue than any political officeholder or any combination of political officeholders.

So Hawks’ expert opinion is now available to the various political officeholders if they choose to rethink the “build it somewhere else” stand they took before all the relevant facts were known.

–A third new significant development:

A story in The World-Herald last Sunday revealed an example of the lengths to which TransCanada is going to assure that its Keystone Pipeline will not do environmental damage to the long-publicized route across the Sand Hills.

The news story reported that “an extensive and expensive back-scene battle is being waged to clear a rare silver-dollar-sized bug from the pipeline’s path.  The bug is the American Burrowing Beetle, a large, colorful bug known for its prowess in parenting and digging.  It is an endangered species federally and in Nebraska.”

The world’s greatest known concentration of the beetle is now in Nebraska’s Sand Hills on the long-publicized route of the proposed $7-billion-plus 1,700-mile-long pipeline.  This, the Sunday news story reported, that this has prompted a three-year effort by federal and state wildlife agencies and pipeline developer TransCanada to eliminate damage to the beetle along 100 miles of the proposed pipeline route.

TransCanada is reported to be have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire a beetle expert and crew to survey, trap and relocate 2,400 of the less-than-two-inch-long insects.

In an effort to keep the beetles from moving back, the company has agreed to pay for beetle-friendly ranching practices in the beetle colony’s new location and is prepared to finance three American Burrowing Beetle trust funds, at a cost of nearly $4 million, to replace disturbed and destroyed habitat, according to The World-Herald’s Sunday story.

Hardly sounds like a company determined to push ahead despite environmental threats to the Sand Hills and the underlying Ogallala aquifer.

Heineman and Terry and Johanns and some state senators should be given credit for good intentions, even if voiced so late in the game.  But a road paved only with good intentions, as the old saying suggests, can lead to unintended bad results.

So again, some friendly advice for the public officials involved:

Acknowledge the facts that weren’t available or weren’t well-publicized before you took your “build it somewhere else” positions.  Press for more environmental-protection assurances if expert opinion and the burrowing beetle story aren’t assurance enough.

But discontinue your “build it somewhere else” efforts which could prove fatal to a project which clearly serves America’s best interests.

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Why Doesn’t Palin Just Go Away?
Ask Perry Why He Backed Al Gore

Is it disrespectful for me to suggest that a duly-nominated candidate for vice president of the United States—the name is Sarah Palin—simply take all that money she has gathered from her political speech-making appearances and retire to live in luxury somewhere?  Alaska, where she resides after serving two years as governor, might be the best place, as far from the lower 48 as possible.

That thought is prompted by Palin showing up in our neighboring state of Iowa last week in one of her typical rabble-rousing speeches.

A news story reported that more than 1,500 of her devoted supporters weathered an hour-long rainstorm in Indianola, Iowa, “to urge her to run for president.”  The story said the crowd roared approval as Palin praised the “little guys” and attacked the “permanent political class” in America.

The story said Palin gave no indication that she planned to run for President, although parts of her speech were clearly aimed at undercutting support for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, considered to be the current frontrunner for the GOP nomination.

Incidentally but importantly, if Perry should turn out to be the Republican nominee, I would think President Obama should rejoice (just as he would if long shot Rep. Michelle Bachman won the Republican nomination).

Either Perry or Bachman would not appeal to voters in the growing middle ground of American politics, voters who are turned off by the extremists in both parties—the liberal left Democrats and the ultra conservative Republicans.

Incidentally, before the campaign has progressed much further, when will some journalist or some other candidate for the Republican nomination press Perry to explain his relatively recent membership in the Democratic Party, including his role as Texas chairman for the presidential campaign of Democrat Al Gore in 2000?

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Why All The Shooting Deaths In Omaha?
Simply ‘Let’s Go Out And Kill Somebody’?

I would guess that I’m not the only Omahan who wonders why police, with some prodding perhaps from the news media don’t answer this pretty obvious question (at least it seems obvious to me):

Is there some common thread of reason behind some or many of the unexplained shootings—and deaths—reported so frequently in the media?

Are they simply random senseless shootings, personal grudges or is there some common theme like gang warfare or arguments over drug deals or competition between rival drug-dealing gangs?

There have been so many deaths by gunfire that I find it hard to believe most of them result from a “let’s drive by and kill somebody tonight” attitude.

How about it, news media reporters?  Why not press for some answers?

Lest you respond that I should be doing the pressing for answers:  I gave up the role of investigative reporter a long time ago.  A columnist’s role can properly be to stimulate others to action by comments or questions.  Especially, I believe, if you are an unpaid columnist who spends a day or more a week researching, writing and rewriting.

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Cornhuskers Have More Than Good Kicking Game?

Well, at least the Nebraska Cornhuskers apparently have a very good kicking game.

Beyond that, a lot of Saturday’s Husker 40-7 victory over Tennessee-Chattanooga seemed to me to be mainly a demonstration of the need for considerably more improvement, both offensively and defensively, before the Huskers move into the rest of a schedule which includes teams with a lot more talent than Tennessee-Chattanooga.

But hopes springs eternal in the breast (if not the brain) of Cornhusker fans.  So let’s hope the Huskers learned a lot last Saturday.

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