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The center of revived Keystone XL pipeline debate is in York, Nebraska, where a marathon public hearing on the project is underway:
One by one they stepped forward -- union workers, environmentalists, farmers, politicians, business leaders, a lobbyist -- to make their case either for or against the Keystone XL pipeline.
Hundreds of people showed up for the marathon public meeting Wednesday at the Holthus Convention Center in York, although only 150 people will have a chance to speak, each with a five-minute time limit.
The five members of the Public Service Commission, which has authority to decide whether the Keystone XL's proposed 275-mile Nebraska route is in the state's interest, sat elevated on a stage at a black-skirted table in front of a backdrop of black curtains.
I visited York in 2014 when I took a road trip along the pipeline’s route. Nice place. Fun water tower.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump issued a federal permit for the long-delayed pipeline running from Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska. When built, the Keystone XL pipeline will transport 800,000 barrels of oil from Canada, Montana, and North Dakota to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Nebraska is the last state on the pipeline’s route that has yet to give its permission. Thus the public hearing.
Not only would the Keystone XL pipeline be a welcome addition to America’s energy infrastructure, specifically the project would be a benefit to Nebraska. Here are some numbers from the State Department’s most-recent (2012) analysis:
- Pipeline construction will generate $739 million of economic activity
- Construction of the pipeline will support 4,400 jobs
- Construction of the pipeline will support $149.4 million in earnings
- Pipeline construction will expand Gross State Product by $244.3 million
- During its first year of operation, the pipeline will generate an estimated $11.780 million in state property taxes
- Pipeline construction camps in Nebraska will generate an additional $420,000 in state property taxes
- Nebraska will see an additional $16.5 million in sales taxes during pipeline construction
While those numbers are a bit out of date, they still show that the pipeline will have a significant benefit to the Nebraska economy. That’s why both labor unions and industry support this important project.
As I heard when traveling the route, these economic benefits help workers and families, create new jobs, and enable school districts to buy new computers and supplies. Local governments will be able to buy or replace much-needed fire trucks and safety equipment, and roads will be paved and new roads will be built, all as a result of this project.
The Nebraska Public Service Commission will hear from a lot of people today. When weighing what was said with the facts, approving the Keystone XL pipeline will be what’s best for Nebraska.