Pipeline opponents ready to rope themselves to tractors in Nebraska

Deena Winter
|
Feb 04, 2014 4:09 PM
Pipeline opponents ready to rope themselves to tractors in Nebraska

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – With the U.S. State Department’s final environmental report possibly paving the way for the Obama administration to approve the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, Nebraska could be ground zero for acts of civil disobedience.

Kat Buchanan for Nebraska Watchdog

FARM TEAM: Bold Nebraska has been instrumental in organization opposition to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. They dominated a U.S. State Department hearing in Grand Island, Neb.

Environmental groups say 76,000 people have pledged to resist the pipeline through sit-ins and other non-violent protests – and Nebraska is likely to supply more than a few of them.

But rather than tying themselves to trees, Nebraskans are more likely to rope themselves to tractors, says the head of the anti-pipeline Bold Nebraska, Jane Kleeb. While the grassroots opposition group – which includes Republican ranchers who don’t think a foreign company should be able to build a pipeline on their land without their consent – has been focused on stopping the pipeline, they’ve also prepared for the possibility it will be approved.

Pipeline fighters built a clean energy barn smack dab in the path of the pipeline, near York, Neb. If the pipeline is rejected, it will be the site of a celebratory barbecue. If the pipeline is approved, it will be a place to rally for everyone from tribal members to grandmothers to farmers and ranchers.

Kleeb envisions tribal members who do not want to see the pipeline built on sacred ground – such as the Ponca Trail of Tears in Antelope County – encircling the barn in protest “unless they get smart and move the route.” That’d be difficult to do: The barn was built in an area where four sisters who oppose the pipeline own the surrounding land.

“The family won’t move it so they’ll either have to tear it down or really reroute the pipeline,” she said. “Obviously if they tear down a clean energy barn, that won’t be a good visual for the president.”

Kleeb doesn’t think pipeline opponents in Nebraska will chain themselves to construction equipment, as protesters did in Texas and Oklahoma.

“To be honest, we don’t have anything against the construction workers,” Kleeb said.

Instead, Nebraskans are more likely to take more family-focused, “creative actions” against TransCanada, the Canadian pipeline company that has been fighting five years to get the pipeline approved. Nebraskans will also be better prepared to watch construction and document any problems with cameras.

“We would go into that kind of mode where we would be pipeline watchers,” Kleeb said. “We’d be watching everything they were doing.”

Nebraskans have already participated in acts of civil disobedience, getting arrested during protests outside the White House and flooding the Nebraska governor’s mansion with flashlights.

Even though those protests in Texas and Oklahoma didn’t stop the southern leg of Keystone XL from being built, it’s clear Bold Nebraska will continue throwing every obstacle it can find in the path of the pipeline.

“Landowners are not going to let it go in the ground without having our voices heard,” Kleeb said.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org.

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