LINCOLN, Neb. —
"I'm not really happy with the way it is, but you can only fight for so long," said Todd Cone, who was a vocal opponent of the initial route that cut through the Sandhills near his property. "It's moved off to the east now. And I guess my thought is, those people over there, they need to stick up for themselves."
Supporters and opponents are expected to pack the State Department's only hearing before Secretary John Kerry recommends to President Barack Obama whether to build the $7.6 billion Canada-to-Texas line. A recommendation by the department, which has jurisdiction because the pipeline would cross a U.S. border, is not expected until summer.
A poll last year by the Omaha World-Herald showed Nebraskans support the pipeline by more than a 2-to-1 ratio, and the state's governor and congressional delegation — all Republicans — have either backed the plan or relaxed their opposition. That support mirrors national sentiment about the pipeline. A poll last month by the Pew Research Center showed that 66 percent of those polled favor building the pipeline, compared with 23 percent who oppose it.
The pipeline would carry 800,000 barrels of oil a day across six states to refineries along the Gulf Coast. One leg of the pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to ports near Houston, already has been approved and construction is proceeding.
Jane Kleeb, executive director of the anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska, said it's wrong to conclude opposition to the project has waned. A core group of Nebraska ranchers, property-rights advocates, young people and American Indians will continue to fight the pipeline, and national and global opposition remains strong, she said.
Kleeb's group is among those trying to persuade Obama to reject a federal permit for the pipeline, and opponents also have filed a lawsuit challenging a new Nebraska law that allowed the Department of Environmental Quality to review the new proposed pipeline route.