Saturday, a large number of land owners and concerned citizens in Knox County Nebraska met to learn more about easement rights along the route of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, a route that would go through their county.
Leaders of the Nebraska Easement Action Team, or NEAT, say they are working to protect the rights of landowners along the proposed Keystone XL route and are helping to provide resources, such as legal advice, to make it happen. They say the organization is not anti-pipeline, but many of those who belong are against it.
"We hope that land owners rights are respected. We hope that the property owners are given a fair chance to represent themselves. And, that the terms of the easement don't abuse landowners and don't leave the door open for future problems," said Ben Gotshall of the Nebraska Easement Action Team.
Byron Steskal is one of the affected landowners. The proposed route would run 1.2 miles diagonally through his property northeast of Atkinson.
"And I want some liability protection, number one, and the other thing is I'm worried about the water if there is a spill," said Byron Steskal, of Atkinson, NE.
Governor Dave Heineman recently sent a letter to President Obama and the State Department giving Nebraska's OK on the new pipeline route. He says any potential leaks would be minimal and the benefits outweigh the concerns.
"If the leak would be on the bottom of the pipe, a 36 inch pipe, it would be undetected because the sensors can't detect that small of a leak. And, it may never be detected until someone tests the water, or it would show up downstream somewhere," Steskal pointed out.
Other landowner concerns include what to do when the pipeline trench is left open for up to four months to check for leaks and whether or not TransCanada can actually get access to the land under eminent domain.
"How can a foreign, private corporation condemn the property of American Citizen," asked Gotshall.
Meanwhile, Nebraska anti-pipeline groups are planning to take 100 people to Washington D.C. in a couple of weeks to give their side of the story to Congress.
"We're going to send a clear message to President Obama that we want him to stand by his words and deny the Keystone pipeline because, you know, a lot of people have a lot of problems with it," Gotshall explained.
Washington leaders have indicated that it may be June before a final decision on the pipeline is made.
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