Friday, January 23, 2015

Another story about Keystone XL and the unusual bedfellows it has made in Nebraska

The New York Times reports today under the headline, "Defenders of Tradition in Keystone XL Fight,"    of the unexpected alliances between farmers and ranchers on the one hand and environmentalists on the other in opposing the Keystone XL pipeline's path through Nebraska.

Mitch Smith's story features the Harrington sisters of Bradshaw, Nebraska, one of whom was featured in this December post about the pipeline and this NPR story regarding local conflicts over the controversial piece of energy infrastructure.    
Four Harrington sisters — Abbi, Terri, Jenni and Heidi — grew up in the 1960s and ’70s tending livestock and crops here, and three of them have remained in Nebraska and continue to farm the land. They fear that construction of the pipeline could threaten their livelihood and a family farming tradition that dates back about 150 years, to when their great-great-grandfather settled on the plot.
Smith describes how folks like the Harringtons, who according to dominant lore about rural folks should be conservative (note the "defenders of tradition" phrase in the headline), have partnered with environmentalists to oppose the pipeline.
The pipeline project has become a cause célèbre, and not just among conservatives, who cite its potential to create jobs, or among environmentalists, who lament the risks they say it poses to groundwater. Several farmers like the Harringtons are also in a personal battle to protect land that in many cases has been passed down through generations.
* * *  
[N]ational environmental groups have joined forces with an unlikely, and bipartisan, team of farmers, ranchers and city dwellers. 
Terri Harrington was among several landowners who filed lawsuits in county court last week; they are challenging the route through Nebraska. Read more here.  Four of seven justices on the Nebraska Supreme Court recently ruled that "the law giving Mr. Heineman the authority to sign off on the route was unconstitutional. The other three justices did not say whether they thought the measure was constitutional, and the law stood because five votes were needed for it to be overturned."  Read more here.  

Yesterday's story features a photo of a "No Oil in our Soil" sign--and anecdotes about how Jenni Harrington's activism has caused her children to be teased at school.  (Another example of that is illustrated in this story).
All of this reminds me of this quote from a newspaper publisher in York, Nebraska, which was included in an NPR story last month about the pipeline.  Publisher Greg Awtry figures he has written some 50 editorials opposing the pipeline.  He declares:
I'm very conservative.  Profit is good! 
The only place I think that this [pipeline] is political would be Washington.  Out here on the ground, we have very conservative lifelong Republican ranchers and farmers, arm-in-arm with the very liberal environmentalists who had little to nothing in common along those lines before this came up. 
* * *  
We are talking about one of the greatest natural resources in the United States of America: the Ogallala Aquifer, which furnishes drinking water to people in eight states.  So even though the risk may be minimal, minimal risk is not acceptable.
Awry opines that the the fact the aquifer is unseen creates challenges for pipeline opponents:
[It] is one of the reasons you don't see a huge uproar about it, because you can't put your hand on it, you can't see it. It's not a park, you can't go climb it like a mountain. ... It's out of sight, out of mind.
As my earlier post suggested, for those elsewhere--outside Nebraska and the plains, that is--that entire region is also out of sight, out of mind.   (I have written here and here about environmental hazards in relation to rural spatiality and the out-of-sight, out of mind phenomenon.  One of those posts is based on this 2012 event.)     

Other posts about Keystone XL are here and here.  A recent op-ed about another pipeline project that threatens rural livelihoods is here.  Reports on recent pipeline spills in Montana and North Dakota respectively are here and here

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