TransCanada has no permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska, but the Nebraska State Patrol and county sheriffs are meeting already to discuss security concerns during construction.
Nance County Sheriff Dave Moore said there was nothing secretive about an initial discussion he sat in on last week at the Law Enforcement Training Center in Grand Island.
It's also no secret that, with seven uniformed officers, including him, assigned to oversee countywide law enforcement over 460 square miles, Nance County can't handle construction security alone, Moore said.
“We'll rely on the State Patrol and hopefully on the federal government for some outside help,” he said from his Fullerton office Wednesday. “That's what this meeting was about -- just so we're all on the same page and to understand that people do have their rights.”
Acts of civil disobedience on the southern leg of the pipeline, already under construction between Cushing, Okla., and the Gulf Coast, have become a common headache for TransCanada in Oklahoma and Texas.
Protesters have climbed trees scheduled to be cut down, chained themselves to construction equipment and resorted to more creative ideas, including one man encasing his arm in a chunk of buried concrete.
If construction proceeds in Nebraska, Moore is more concerned about outsiders than local pipeline opponents.
“I think the locals will handle it very well,” he said. “We're a little concerned about people traveling to do their protest.
“We do not know them.”
Jane Kleeb, staunch Keystone XL opponent and executive director of Bold Nebraska, was much happier with the news that Holt County supervisors voted 7-0 Tuesday against pipeline construction than she was about the Grand Island law enforcement parley that also involved the Nebraska attorney general's office and TransCanada representatives.
What happened in Holt County was “a big citizen victory,” she said.
What happened in Grand Island was troubling for several reasons, starting with “they (TransCanada) don't have a permit and they're far away from getting a permit.”
The 1,700-mile, $7 billion Keystone XL, which would link the oil resources of Alberta, Canada, with U.S. refineries, has been under public scrutiny for more than four years. It requires a presidential permit because it crosses an international border.
Kleeb called a meeting behind closed doors between Nebraska law enforcement and TransCanada officials, but without opponents, “a pretty one-sided conversation.” And floating the idea of paying deputies to provide security during their off-duty hours creates a conflict for people who are supposed to be working for Nebraska residents when they're on duty, she said.
In addition, she said, there is no reason to believe violence will accompany pipeline construction in Nebraska.
“Will we engage in civil disobedience? Yes. Will we be violent? No.”
York County Sheriff Dale Radcliff said he could not attend the Grand Island event because of a scheduling conflict. But he agreed with Moore that the main concern was likely to be “people coming from outside the county.”
The pipeline would pass through his county just west of York, and his deputies probably wouldn't be able to handle security alone either, Radcliff said.
On the other hand, what they do on their own time is their own business.
“I guess on some days off, if my officers want to do something like that, I wouldn't hesitate about them doing that.”
Shannon Kingery, spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, said her boss did not attend the Grand Island discussion.
“Any questions regarding the meeting should be directed to the Nebraska State Patrol,” she said via email, “as that was the organizing agency.”
Deb Collins, her counterpart with the patrol, said county attorneys also were on the invitation list.
“We are aware that issues could arise,” Collins said of Keystone XL construction. “We don't expect to have issues. A meeting like this is just an opportunity to be better prepared if there would be.”
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Holt County Board of Supervisors, said its Tuesday vote was a resolution “to not allow pipelines to cross Holt County -- a tar sands pipeline, a crude oil pipeline.”
Bill Tielke of Atkinson acknowledged that counties don't have any law-making authority over such pipelines.
“This is just basically a way of telling our constituents this is what the board's opinion is only on this particular item,” he said.
“We're not opposed to pipes for agricultural purposes,” Tielke added. “And our main concern, if there is a leak, is the aquifer. And that's what the concerns are of our constituents.”