WASHINGTON - Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman urged President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday to deny a federal permit for a pipeline that would carry Canadian oil using an aquifer that supplies drinking and irrigation water to parts of several states.
Heineman said he supports pipeline projects but opposes TransCanada’s Keystone XL route that would cross the vast Ogallala aquifer.
In the letter, the Republican governor said he was concerned about the threat to the crucial water source for Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers. The aquifer supplies drinking water to 2 million people in Nebraska and seven other states.
“This resource is the lifeblood of Nebraska’s agricultural economy,’’ Heineman said. “Cash receipts from farm markets contribute over $17 billion to Nebraska’s economy annually. I am concerned that the proposed pipeline will have potentially detrimental effects on this valuable natural resource and Nebraska’s economy.’’
The pipeline would carry oil from Canada across Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma on its way to refineries on Texas’ Gulf Coast.
Heineman released the letter in the midst of ongoing pipeline protests in Washington. Scores of environmental protesters have been arrested after ignoring orders to move away from the White House.
Environmental groups fear the pipeline could foul underground and surface water supplies, increase air pollution around refineries, and harm wildlife. They also say the process for extracting the oil from tar and oil sands of Alberta would vastly increase carbon emissions, considered a leading cause of climate change.
Supporters say the environmental concerns are overblown, and argue that the pipeline will create jobs.