The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 18, 2013

Neb. opposition muted ahead of Keystone hearing

Earlier backlash turns to support

LINCOLN, Neb. — A proposed Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline would run just 1,000 feet from Terri Funk's doorstep, but the Nebraska farmer and her husband don't plan to protest or even attend the U.S. State Department's lone public hearing on the contentious proposal Thursday.

That's because the company building the pipeline has pledged to restore any of their land it digs up. So her opinion is this: Build away.

Just months after intense opposition in Nebraska helped delay and reroute the Keystone XL pipeline, Funk's position has grown more popular in this conservative state. Local politicians and landowners now largely support the line — or at least aren't actively opposing it.

"I'm not really worried about it," said Funk, who grows corn and soybeans in Antelope County, about 150 miles northwest of Omaha. "It's planting season right now, and we've got better things to do."

TransCanada, which is building the pipeline, has told the couple they could continue growing crops and that the disruption of their property would be temporary. The agreement, one of hundreds reached with landowners in the state, gives Funk little reason to drive to the planned eight-hour public hearing about 100 miles away in Grand Island.

Besides the individual deals with landowners, opinions have shifted in Nebraska since the line was rerouted away from the ecologically sensitive Sandhills region, which overlies the sprawling Ogallala Aquifer.

There still will be plenty of opposition voiced Thursday from environmentalists who maintain the pipeline could have catastrophic implications for global warming and still crosses parts of the fragile, sandy soil that is outside the officially designated Sandhills region. But in Nebraska — the most visible face of the opposition effort a year ago — even some opponents now seem resigned to idea that Keystone XL will be built.

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