The organizing cohesiveness of BOLD Nebraska over the years to forge common ground between disparate socio-political interests fighting Keystone XL has been instructive and inspirational. While adjoining states, and U.S. officials alike, have had mixed success resisting the oilagarchy, the people of Nebraska have single handedly stopped TransCanada on multiple fronts – direct action, the courts, the Nebraska Public Service Commission, and creative actions like solar installations along the route of the pipeline. This kind of success can be achieved only by presenting a united front, united only due to mutual respect. The BOLD Nebraska folks, under Jane Kleeb’s guidance, listened to the concerns of conservative farmers and ranchers, school districts, water districts, and tradesmen to build an awareness of the pipeline’s likely impact on their livelihood. The learning curve has been methodical and steady, and has paid off when you read comments like this: “I think if not for Bold, the pipeline would be in today”, says Art Tanderup. Tanderup found that his 160 acre farm, that has been in his wife’s family for 101 years, is in Keystone’s way. “[Jane Kleeb] was the glue that kept us landowners together, and kept the organizing that happened in the state going.” Kleeb related this tale. “About two or three years into the fight, one of the farmers came up to me and asked if I had ever heard of the documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. I started to laugh — I told him that indeed I had, but it’d been a while. And he was like, ‘Well, my daughter got me a Netflix subscription for Christmas, and I’ve been watching all of these documentaries on climate change, and man, we really should have been listening to Al Gore.'”
An article in Popular Science provides insight into the issues, the stakes, and the success of BOLD Nebraska. “Perhaps if TransCanada hadn’t first proposed to put the pipeline not only through a cherished region, but one that rests atop the state’s most precious resource, they would not have encountered such fierce resistance. But they did. And so from the beginning, as it were, the balances were not correct. Nebraskans really, really love their aquifer. Jane Kleeb noted,’There’s books, there’s songs, there’s poetry about the Ogallala Aquifer. We don’t have a ton of corporate agriculture in our state. It’s still family farms and ranches of people who homesteaded in the 1800s, still being run by those same families. Nebraska is kind of unique in that sense.
“‘Everything we do here is out of that aquifer’ says Tanderup, who grows mostly corn, soy, rye, and cover crops on his farm. ‘We drink it, the livestock drink it, we irrigate with it, and we water our gardens with it. It’s our water.’ John Hansen, President of Nebraska’s Farmers Union, believes that the Sandhills make for a risky shortcut. ‘Why would you run a pipeline in an area where, if it leaks, it goes right into the water supply?’
“Jim Carlson, who lives in Central Nebraska said ‘They came, knocked on my door, and offered me a pretty substantial amount of money’. That’s when he decided he should find out more about what was happening in his backyard. He learned that the oil will come from the tar sand fields of Alberta, Canada – a bitumin that isn’t liquid, but closer to the consistency of molasses. John Stansbury, an Associate Professor of Environmental Water Resources Engineering at the University of Nebraska said ‘a small leak from an underground rupture in the Sandhills could pollute almost 5 billion gallons of groundwater, if it went undetected. It’s important to note that when pipelines leak, the problem isn’t usually caught by high-tech leak detection systems. There are two problems with this. The first is that the bitumen sticks to everything — vegetation, rocks, riverbanks — and it’s not easily washed away. The second is that while conventional crude oil floats, bitumen sinks. In the end, knowing that, Carlson turned down a little more than $300,000 rather than allowing Keystone XL to come through his land.
“In August, Bold Nebraska (in coordination with 350.org, Indigenous Environmental Network, and a coalition of other groups) launched a $50,000 dollar crowdfunding effort to build solar installations inside the proposed pipeline route. Said Tanderup ‘My wife and I try to burn biodiesel, we try and burn ethanol, but we need to do more. We invested in a solar system for our farm’. The 91% of the farm’s kilowatt needs it generated last year wasn’t enough to satisfy them. ‘So, we bought an electric car, and we charge it off of the solar panels.’ Now that his eyes are open, Jim Carlson sees the signs of a warming climate all around him. Rising global temperatures make for an earlier spring. ‘We plant corn three weeks earlier than we used to’, he says.” Read more at – This land is (still) their land. Meet the Nebraskan farmers fighting Keystone XL.