Post 593: NIMBY, the Nebraska Sandhills

By one vote in the US Senate yesterday, the Keystone XL pipeline bill failed to pass. I don’t kid myself. Of the three ways of transporting this sludge across the Sandhills — truck, railroad, or pipeline — the pipeline is the “safest”.

The people charged with representing Nebraska’s interests in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate support the pipeline and voted for it. The current Governor of Nebraska and the Unicameral, ostensibly “nonpartisan”, but actually very Republican, support it.

The ones who don’t want it are the ones who live where this pipeline threatens to take productive pasture out of use and poses a threat of spills to damage the Ogallala Aquifer, that vast underground lake of water thickest under most of the state of Nebraska.

Western Hemisphere's largest stabilized sandbox, kitties' delight!

Western Hemisphere’s largest area of stabilized sand dunes, a great ranching country.

NIMBYU: “Not In My Backyard”.  Cattle country. Proud, hard-working conservative people with an almost religious connection to the land live there. Cowboys, if you will. Ranchers. People who put three Representatives and two Senators in Congress to vote for a pipeline they can’t imagine spoiling their paradise.

For the time being, the pipeline is a pipedream, but this November Nebraskans repeated their standard practice of putting the same old people back in Congress, with one exception for the fellow representing the 2nd District. He misspoke and pissed some people off. Amazing, but that district is largely in the urban east. Four conservative Republicans and one Democrat will represent the state in the next Congress.

What about the 3rd Congressional District, the largely rural, agricultural part of the state, the part where the Sandhills are? Yes, by a wide margin– 75.39% to his opponent’s 24.61% of votes cast — Representative Adrian Smith won re-election. NIMBY. People vote by habit, not by any rational process I can discern. People don’t want the pipeline to spoil the Sandhills and the aquifer, which are the source of their income, but they put characters like Smith back in Congress.

The sky dominates the plains...and mice can't hide no matter how hard they try!

Those bumps beyond the field of corn are the start of the Nebraska Sandhills, east of Alliance. The Ogallala Aquifer provides irrigation water that makes growing corn possible in what was once characterized as “The Great American Desert”

As much as I hate to take this attitude, because I definitely don’t support the pipeline or the transport of this sludge across the Ogallala Aquifer states, but the people of the states and places most affected by this pipeline vote scarlet red Republican: They put the people who support this travesty in the seats of power, and they and their progeny will reap the whirlwind.

I’m almost two-thirds of a century old, so will be dead soon enough. Though it is in remission, I have a disease that has the potential to kill me well before the 90+ years that both parents lived. I chose not to have children, so none of my own are threatened. As far as I’m, concerned, I can no longer respect nor be concerned about the fate of the people of the Sandhills because they largely haven’t the sense to support politicians who respect their way of life and the land on which they live and work.

Besides, any spill plumes will spread east toward Lincoln, NIMBY.



9 thoughts on “Post 593: NIMBY, the Nebraska Sandhills

  1. I’ll start this by saying, I’m Canadian so really it’s none of my business. But what I don’t understand is the pipeline is the safest and has the best track record of transportation methods. Secondly, the oil sands can conceivably make the USA totally oil self-sufficient. No more middle east oil. To mean it seams like a no brainer, but again, I don’t know what the various political and constitutional implications are.

    • The US has increased its energy production through fracking (also very controversial), and actually is set to be self-sufficient in energy within the next few years.

      The issue is largely political. Yes, the pipeline is the least environmentally dangerous transportation method — take a look at that train that blew up in North Dakota or the one that wiped out a chunk of that town in Quebec last year when their nasty cargoes caught fire and exploded after derailments (I believe it was). And trucks are even less efficient and more dangerous.

      On the other hand, not transporting this material across an aquifer that makes possible a major part of the economic activities of this state (and others affected) possible makes more sense to people who live here.

      If there are leaks — and there will be leaks — who’s responsible for cleaning it up? Look at BP (Gulf of Mexico) and Exxon (Exxon Valdez in Prince William SOund), among many other examples of oil companies and their approach to these things, and you have to wonder if you want to trust the people behind the pipeline to be any more responsible. There just is too much at risk. More likely than not, the state and federal governments would be stuck with the mess, then they would try to recover the costs through the courts if the pipeline people didn’t own up to their responsibility.

      I’ve reached the point on this, however, where I think the best bet is to let the people who want this pipeline have their way, and when the inevitable happens, make sure I’m standing there taunting them with a “FU! You wanted it, now you live in this sludge and drink the poisoned waters! Ha! Ha! Ha! I’m living on the other side of it, and it doesn’t affect me! NIMBY!” If they think the 40 or so permanent jobs that will result after the short term jobs created by building the pipeline are worth risking the futures of their children and grand children, then go for it. I’ll be dead.

      In Nebraska, there is a legal issue to resolve, too. The Unicameral (the mostly Republican one house legislature) and the governor (Republican, of course) worked to get a law passed that allows the private company behind the pipeline to condemn land they want to run the pipeline through using the process of eminent domain, a power generally reserved for government. The law has been challenged, and goes to the Nebraska Supreme Court, possibly the US Supreme Court. I mean, property owners in this state are very upset with their leaders for turning over the power of eminent domain to a private company, let alone a foreign one! Xenophobia is a local habit, a way of life. Ask the Latinos who come to Nebraska to work in the packing plants.

      Though this legal challenge doesn’t end the threat or possibility of the pipeline being built, it slows it down while the wheels of justice grind along. In the meantime, the price of oil has gone down worldwide (partly because of the increased supplies available in the US, partly because of lower economic activity worldwide, partly because of more efficient use of energy), making the tar sand pipeline less economically feasible. The problem may resolve itself, though I doubt the tar sands will stay in the ground as long as a buck is to be made. (Ask the First Nation people how they feel about it. The same goes for the Native Americans in the US whose reservations this pipeline is to go through. It’ll be a good distance from my home, so my objections are more ideologically based.)

      That, my friend, is my biased and cynical take on the Keystone pipeline issue.

    • I’m with you on that. On one hand, we like our fossil fuel fed vehicles, and can’t imagine life without the convenience they bring. On the other hand, they alter the environment in ways we are just learning. A refinery where you live might attract the sludge from the Alberta oil sands that the Canadians now want to ship through my area, as if your area is any less environmentally sensitive. You drive a fuel-efficient Kia. I drive an Impala that actually gets low 30s on the highway, thanks to engineering improvements in that product since the 1970s. (It actually gets the same MPG my 1970 VW Beetle got in the early 1970s!) We try to be responsible about our use of the resource, but the resource requires incredibly destructive practices to extract from the earth. It’s difficult to know what to think.

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