While the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline has fluctuated in prominence
over the past nine years, ranging from grabbing headlines on a national
stage to barely pushing its way into local papers, the landowners dedicated
to the fight have remained stalwart opponents to its construction.
Outside Magazine took a deeper look into the current state of the legal fight
in a recently published article.
“To gauge the project’s momentum, I attended landowner meetings
hosted by both TransCanada and the Nebraska Easement Action Team, a legal
defense nonprofit representing landowners affected by the pipeline,”
wrote Carson Vaughn. “Or rather, I tried to.”
First, Vaughn attempted to attend one of the landowner meet-and-greets
announced by TransCanada late last year. These events were positioned
along the new alternate route at so-called “Landowner Engagement
Centers”, this one in the Cobblestone Hotel in Seward, NE, a city
with a population of 6,964 according to the 2010 census, located in the
middle of vast cornfields. He was hoping to meet with some of the landowners
affected by the new route and speak with them about their feelings on
the potential construction, but didn’t find much over the hours
he spent in the lobby.
Upon arriving, he was greeted by TransCanada spokesperson Robynn Tysver,
who closed the door to the conference room immediately after learning
Vaughn was a journalist, stating that the landowners deserved privacy.
Tysver attempted to get Vaughn to leave soon after arriving, but the hotel
receptionist saw no issue with is presence in the lobby. Fewer than 10
people showed up to the event, and any time Vaughn followed them out the
door in an attempt to speak with them, another TransCanada representative
followed close behind.
The Nebraska Easement Action Team’s (NEAT) event, structured more
like a public forum, gave off none of the cool and barren feel present
at TransCanada’s event. The event Vaughn attended was held in the
Olde Glory Theatre, just a few block away from Seward’s town square.
About 75 residents in the area showed up to join in the discussion, led
by Domina Law Group attorney Brian Jorde who, along with fellow attorney
David Domina, formed the legal defense nonprofit in order to represent
landowners affected by the Keystone XL pipeline.
“Imagine if Ted Turner, one landowner, happened to have all the holdings
that stretched 280 miles along the length of this pipeline,” Jorde
told the crowd in the theater. “Do you think one person with all
that land would have more leverage than one of you, who might just have
a small piece? So how can we empower each of you to be Ted Turner? By
The majority of the event’s attendees were opposed to the construction,
but those in favor of its construction were welcome to speak their piece
without interruption. The most important thing was helping those affected
understand their rights, giving them the opportunity to come to a well-informed
decision. Vaughn spoke with one of the landowners affected by the alternate
route, Tad Warm, who said he attended TransCanada’s event the night
before as well, and was frustrated by how the multi-billion dollar company
avoided addressing his concerns.
“I brought up the South Dakota spill, and they said, ‘Oh, we’ll
replace the land,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, how long? And
will you replace it like it used to be?’ They didn’t answer
the question,” Warm said. When asked about the signing bonuses TransCanada
offered, he responded that “It could never be enough.”