Environmentalists and business advocates debated the merits of a proposed pipeline that would stretch from Canada to Texas on Monday.
Officials from the state department listened as critics and supporters voiced their thoughts on the proposed pipeline during a public hearing in Topeka. Activists in Texas attended a similar meeting on Monday in Port Arthur, and hearings are scheduled later this week in Montana, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
The project has received tentative approval from the Environmental Protection Project. Environmentalists expressed outrage that state department report suggested there would be little environmental damage from the proposed pipeline. In Kansas, many expressed concern that the pipeline might have a devastating effect on the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive underground reservoir that provides water to much of western Kansas and Nebraska.
Amid the environmentalists’ comments, several others voiced their concerns about a 100 percent property tax abatement that TransCanada has on the existing pipeline the company will use for its expansion.
Several voiced their support for the project noting the Keystone Pipeline expansion will bring more than a million barrels of Canadian oil to U.S. refineries each day.
There is a fine balancing act that officials must consider with this and many other projects. We share environmentalists’ concerns about the Ogallala Aquifer. If that is contaminated Kansans will suffer immeasurably – and not just in potential health issues, but also economically. The aquifier supplies much of Kansas agriculture – one of the state’s biggest industries – with critical water.
But, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, there’s little to no risk of the pipeline doing lasting damage. It’s difficult to measure what level of risk is acceptable, but the pipeline expansion project has already received tentative approval from the EPA.
More oil reaching the nation’s refineries is certainly a win for all American consumers. It’s even better when that oil comes from Canada rather than from the Middle East.
The public hearing process is critical, but we worry that these hearings are often held too far into the process. For supporters and the opposition, what they said on Monday is probably too little too late to change the outcome of the Keystone Pipeline Expansion. And that’s unfortunate.  We don’t have an opinion on the project itself. However, we believe the people should have their say long before the decisions are made, and in this, as in most cases, it doesn’t appear as if they did.