Myron Stafford is a TransCanada land agent who doubles as a Nebraska preacher. His sole job is to get landowners to sign easements. These easements would allow TransCanada to lay the pipeline across their land. Mr. Stafford began when he arrived in Nebraska five years ago, but a turn of events landed him a position as a "fill in" pastor for First Baptist Church.
The pipeline would transport crude oil extracted from Canada to refineries located along the Gulf Coast. This week's State Department Hearing in Grand Island will decide whether or not the pipeline building can proceed. The TransCanada pipeline is not merely an environmental issue; it is a political one as well. The hope of job creation and energy independence pitted against environmentalists, farmers and ranchers alike who are concerned about their water supply.
Many people believe "Reverend" Stafford used his new position of prominence to sweet talk landowners into signing easement deals, and this situation is not unique. Many other TransCanada representatives are using their positions to get signatures as well, but landowners, farmers and ranchers are fighting back.
The Nebraska Easement Action Team (NEAT) is an ad hoc group that recruits landowners that share a common goal of demanding a standard easement agreement for all Nebraska residents who the pipeline would affect. NEAT desires this type of agreement to ensure fair treatment and equal property prices. NEAT is represented by Brian Jorde of Domina Law Group.
"No one else is looking out for the landowners," Jorde said. "Not the Department of Environmental Quality, not the governor, not the attorney general's office, not the state legislature. No one in Nebraska vetted the easement contract, which is the controlling document for every landowner. No one in the state legislature or the attorney general's office debated the contract to get a standard easement. It was left to the landowners to fend for themselves and hope they get the right fine print in there to protect them."
Because TransCanada's new route has been approved of by Governor Dave Heineman, landowners who refuse to sign easements and cooperate with the pipeline construction face the threat of foreclosure through eminent domain. Brian Jorde is one force leading the way in challenging this legislation.
View the entire OnEarth TransCanada story here.