Opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline billed their Thursday event in Lincoln as a chance to educate state and local officials on what jurisdiction they have over pipeline projects.
But many of the questions were about Bob Banderet's thoughts on the 60-foot geyser of oil he saw over a Keystone pump station near his south-central North Dakota home shortly after he got up on a May morning.
Cogswell rancher Banderet and neighbor Paul Mathews were at NETV studios for a discussion that was also streamed live on the website of Bold Nebraska, one of the project's most vocal critics.
Banderet said what happened after he saw oil spewing into the air about a mile and a half from his house gave him little confidence about the quality of TransCanada's leak detection system.
The oil was coming from the first Keystone pipeline that the Canadian company put in operation about a year ago. That same line, connecting oil sands in Alberta with refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma, comes through eastern Nebraska about 25 miles west of Lincoln at Seward.
"I'm here today to say that their version of how that worked on the North Dakota spill was somewhat different from what I witnessed," Banderet said.
For example, despite TransCanada assurances to the contrary, he remains convinced that the company didn't know about the spill until he called the 1-800 number set up for that purpose.
Also, according to Banderet, the first cleanup trailer dispatched to deal with some 20,000 gallons of escaped oil didn't arrive until five hours later.
He estimated it took 30 minutes for the gusher to abate after he called to report it.
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Banderet and Mathews are among the approximately dozen members of the rural fire department that serves the Cogswell area.
Mathews said a TransCanada representative came to a department training session while the first project was being built, handed them brochures about potential pipeline incidents, and said "Guys, we'll take care of it."
Mathews' feelings toward TransCanada might be colored by the company's use of land condemnation to cross his property with the first pipeline.
Anthony Swift of the Natural Resources Defense Council also was at the Thursday event to offer his views on what states and counties can do to regulate pipelines.
Swift said it is states, not the federal government, that decide whether to impose siting authority. Although the Nebraska Legislature chose not to seek changes in the Keystone XL route earlier this year, Swift said that authority is theirs and theirs alone.
The Natural Resources Defense Council has many reservations about the environmental impact of tapping the Canadian oil sands, he said, "and one thing that makes this a lot worse is that they're routing it through the United States' largest groundwater aquifer."
Jeff Rauh, spokesman for TransCanada, came to the NETV studios about halfway through the discussion.
He was quick to question Swift's motives when he stepped outside the meeting room to offer his reaction.
"The NRDC is working as hard as they can against the pipeline, because they don't want pipelines to bring any oil in (from Canada)."
Rauh also said it was "patently false" for Swift to assert that as much as 700,000 gallons of oil a day could leak out of a Keystone line without it being detected by TransCanada's monitoring system.
And he said the company has agreed to 57 extra safety measures beyond what federal law requires.
Reach Art Hovey at 402-473-7223 or at email@example.com