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Her voice faltered and her speaking notes wobbled in trembling hands, but Susan Luebbe kept her nerves in check long enough Friday to tell the Obama administration exactly what she thought about Calgary-based TransCanada Corp.’s plan to build the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline across her land.
“It is an all-out war to battle TransCanada and keep them off our property,” said Ms. Luebbe, whose family raises black Angus cattle on a 1,200-acre ranch in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. “It is not in the national best interest for anyone except the money hungry, greedy corporation of TransCanada.”
Ms. Luebbe’s statement – at once angry and determined – was typical of the emotionfilled testimony U.S. State Department officials heard on both sides of the Keystone XL issue during a raucous public hearing into the $7-billion project.
Several hundred people – from labour union supporters to anti-oil environmentalists and alienated landowners – crowded into a basement auditorium of the Ronald Reagan Building to make a final plea for approval or rejection of the 2,700 kilometre pipeline.
It was the last of nine Keystone XL sessions held over the past two weeks by administration officials weighing whether the 830,000 barrel-aday pipeline, which would run from northern Alberta to the Gulf Coast of Texas, is in the U.S. national interest.
Three years and three environmental reviews after TransCanada applied for a presidential permit to build Keystone XL, the Washington hearing should have had an air of finality to it.
Almost no one, however, expects the fight to stop with a State Department yea or nay. “There will be litigation,” said Ms. Luebbe, who has refused TransCanada’s offers to provide an easement to build the pipeline across her ranch near Stuart, Neb.
“If they think we are going to roll over for them, they’ve got another thing coming,” added Randy Thompson, another Nebraska landowner who has not granted TransCanada permission to cross his property.
The sheer intensity of the controversy over Keystone XL has surprised TransCanada, which completed an earlier U.S. phase of the pipeline – Keystone 1 – with relatively little opposition in 2010.
Russ Girling, TransCanada’s, president and chief executive, said Friday his company “would never have expected” Keystone XL to become such a lightning rod in the green movement’s campaign against fossil fuels.
Mr. Girling, in an interview, said Keystone XL has been the victim of bad timing, caught in a wave of public concern caused by last year’s BP PLC oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the spill of 800,000 gallons of oil-sands crude from an Enbridge Inc.-operated pipeline in Michigan.
But he said opponents, including those who live in the six states along the proposed pipeline route, have been “misled” by environmental leaders whose primary goal is to end consumption of all fossil fuels.
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