Nebraska Rancher: Keystone Pipeline Decision Shows ‘Courage’


Written by Ngoc Nguyen

Editorís Note: Pres. Obama announced Wednesday that his administration is denying a permit to TransCanada to construct a controversial Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline that would carry tar sands from the north to refineries along the Gulf Coast. The White House previously said it had planned to table the decision until after the November elections, but was forced to make a decision earlier under pressure from Congressional Republicans.

In a statement, Obama said: ďAs the State Department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipelineís impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment. As a result, the Secretary of State has recommended that the application be denied. And after reviewing the State Departmentís report, I agree.Ē

Environmental groups waged a fierce campaign against the Keystone XL, forming alliances with residents in the six states along the proposed pipelineís route. Nebraskans, in particular, were at the center of the debate, with ranchers, farmers, and rural residents joining forces with environmentalists to avert the contamination of their water supply and land.

New America Media’s environment editor Ngoc Nguyen spoke with Randy Thompson, a Nebraska rancher who has been a leading voice in mobilizing communities against the construction of the Keystone pipeline.

What do you think about the White Houseís recent decision?

Itís somewhat astounding to me. The turn of eventsÖ what has happened in the last few months. I would give the State Department credit. They came out to Nebraska and all the other states and held hearings. They must have listened to our concerns.

The people of Nebraska came out in full force, filled the hearing rooms, expressed our concerns about this project. They listened to what we had to say. I thank the presidentÖ he has listened as well.

Nebraskans have really mobilized against this pipeline. Tell us about the different people who got involved. Would you consider yourselves environmentalists?

It was a very diverse group Ė Iím in the agricultural, farming, ranching and livestock business all my life. Iím a conservative person. Many other landowners are the same way. We joined forces with Bold Nebraska, which is more of a progressive group. All had a common cause and we all worked side by side. I worked with environment people, and have a new respect for them as they do Ö for us.

Itís been a tremendous experience for all of us to work together. We all had the common cause — our state, water supply and natural resources. Iím very proud of our citizens here in Nebraska.

What were your concerns about the pipeline going through your backyard?

I had two major concerns. First of all Ė I donít like the idea of a foreign corporation coming into our country and taking land away from U.S. citizens when they are not willing to give up land, a foreign corporation threatening to take your land though the use of eminent domain. If youíre a pipeline company you can take this land even if people donít want to give it up. Fortunately, that has been changed through a special session [of state legislature].

The second concern is contamination of our water supply in Nebraska. This pipe was going to be buried in the ground, four feet deep on our land. Submerged in our water supply, because our water table is so high that when they bury it four feet, it would be sitting in water. Any kind of a leak would go into our water supplyÖSeveral miles of pipeline would be laid in that kind of situation here in Nebraska. We canít risk our water supply, so oil [companies] can make large profits exporting oil.

Tell us something about yourself and the geology here. Weíve heard a lot about the Sandhills Ė describe them and what they mean to you as a Nebraskan and a rancher.

My family settled in Northern Kansas way back when my grandfather came out west in a covered wagon. I lived there until I was 6 years old, and then we moved to Nebraska. Iíve been in the livestock business all my lifeÖIíve been a farmer, rancher and worked in the livestock marketing business. For the last 14 years, Iíve been a cattle buyer. I buy replacement cattle for farmer feeders and feed yards. Thatís pretty much what Iíve done all my life. I have six grandchildren, two boys, and Iíve been married for 43 years.

I guess a most accurate description [of the Sandhills], itís like the surface of the moon with some grass growing on it. There are sand deposits created by glaciers thousands of years ago and they are large sand dunes and over the years, grass established on the Sandhills. Thatís another big concern. During the construction phase of the pipeline, they would have to strip off vegetation of an area 110 feet wide. Ranchers have done all kinds of conservation [to keep the grass]. [Without it, the] wind blows sandÖ[and creates] great big cratersÖpretty soon you have unusable land.

Were you political before? How would you describe your politics Ė who do you favor among the GOP presidential candidates?

Iím 64 years old, and I have never spoken with a politician, until three years ago. [I had] absolutely nothing to do with politics, any kind of movements. I was just busy running a business and raising my family. Thatís been kind of an eye-opening thing. Getting involved with politicians, seeing the process work, itís been disappointing to me.

I would say definitely, I guess just frankly I was never an Obama supporter. I did not vote for him, but I think I am going to this time. To me heís shown some real courage, standing up to big oil companies on this project. So many of our Republicans are puppets for the big corporationsÖ

Iím a little pissed off at Republicans…well just the fact that they want to just ram this pipeline through. I guarantee that if it was coming through their backyard, they would take a different stance on this.

Do you agree with what some, including Republicans, are saying, that killing Keystone means killing jobs?

I look at it this way. Look at the actual estimate done by the State Department. [The pipeline would have] created 4,000-6,000 jobs total. Iím a Republican. [House speaker John] Boehner spouting off about how the project created hundreds of thousands of jobs is absolute nonsense. And in a few months these jobs would be gone. The pipeline would be in the ground and water supply for the rest of my life and my grandchildrenís lives, so, I mean, thatís not a good tradeoff for me.

Do you think this is the last of the Keystone XL pipeline?

The Republicans have made it pretty well known they will do an end-run around the president. [They are] in the process of writing some kind of legislation [to] take that decision away from the president is my understandingÖthat Congress would actually take that decision back from the president.

Itís disappointing that some of our Nebraskan legislators — senators and representatives — were part of the group that wanted to rush the president, to rush this decision forward. Weíll have to keep pressure on those guys to do what is right here.

This post was originally published by New America Media.


Related Stories:

The Sneakiest Anti-Environment Moves By House Republicans

Tell President Obama to Discuss Climate Change in His State of the Union

‘Job-Killing’ EPA Project Will Create 35 Times As Many Jobs As Keystone XL Pipeline


Photo from New America Media


Betsy R.
Betsy R.5 years ago

And I truly don't know about the water table argument, but seems to me that since Ted Turner bought a huge amount of land in western Nebraska there may be something to the fact that Obama's bucking this was only due to the timing, and he may not be totally opposed at all. In fact, TransCanada would own that pipeline and mostly Canadians will be getting the jobs, although many of them temp jobs anyway, with the illegal Mexicans then also getting a great many. Seems to me if TransCanada wants that pipeline, they should have to negotiate with the individual land owners under leases for any land then needed - since I truly don't believe that foreigners should be able to own U.S. land to begin with - and that is why there is becoming more and more foreign influence in our government due to their land or business holdings here....mostly the Canadians, British and more and more the East Indians and Mexicans. U.S. land should only be owned by U.S. citizens, period.

Betsy R.
Betsy R.5 years ago

I'm with the Nebraska ranchers on this one as it would undermine American land ownership and afford the state authority to use eminent domain on behalf of foreign entities - definitely unconstituional. Also would provide jobs mostly for illegal immigrants, as it is the illegal immigrants that work mostly for those government contractors also in order to up the profits for those contractors, so the jobs argument is ridiculous, unless that Pipeline is owned by Americans, and in which there is strict regulation that only American workers, not foreigners or illegals, can get those jobs. But I wish those in Nebraska would support the Arizonans a little more on the border issue - especially those American Nebraskans that want those borders open for their meat packing plants for that cheap labor, at the cost of the Americans living in the border states...that really hasn't happened in any significant degree and until Arizonans and Texans are supported in their quest to get true border security, and border fencing...those jobs in Nebraska that illegals are holding there will continue at the expense of their fellow Americans.

Barbara U.
Barbara U6 years ago

I was so worried that Obama would crack under the pressure - just like he allowed wolves of the norther rocky states to be removed from the endanger species list on a rider attached to the must-pass spending bill last year. There were only about 1600 wolves throughout all these states, and now they are being hunted and trapped mercilessly - polictics, not science delisted the wolves.

Anyway, along those thoughts, I was very worried the politics not science would allow the Keystone Pipline to be built. I applaud Obama for making the right decision - I know he was under alot of pressure, but that shows that he has integrity and that he is able to stand up for what is right for regular Americans - not the Billionaire Oil Companies.

Winn Adams
Winn A6 years ago

I'm glad the people of America are waking up t0o this pipeline fiasco.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

Well Boehner says the Republicans will force the passing of the Keystone bill by no more than blackmail, saying no Keystone, no continued payroll tax relief. It is clear and has been clear for a long time that the people who live on the lands where the pipeline is proposed do NOT want this project. But of course, the Republicans don't care what the people want only what corporations want.

Chad A.
Chad Anderson6 years ago

I have heard that the calculations on the number of jobs included counting each year of a job as a separate job so a job lasting four years would count as four jobs. Further, the major independent assessment of the project found that there would be no net job creation due to the pipeline.

Debbie W.
Past Member 6 years ago

Another exercise in polling ... to see where the most concentrated efforts are needed for the desired results. Only when push came to shove was movement even considered.

Anne-Marie Vogel
Anne-Marie Vogl6 years ago





New G.
W. C6 years ago

Thank you.

Marie W.
Marie W6 years ago

US in slavery to oil companies.. break the chains.