Living Near The Future Pipeline A Keystone pipeline spill is causing alarm among landowners who live in the proposed path of a new pipeline. NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to Jeanne Crumly of Page, Neb.

Living Near The Future Pipeline

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The Keystone oil pipeline is up and running again after a recent big spill in North Dakota. The pipeline, which stretches from Alberta, Canada, all the way to Houston, reportedly leaked almost 400,000 gallons of tar sands oil into a wetland area. The spill was Keystone's second major one in two years, and that's raised concerns about a second pipeline called the Keystone XL, which isn't built yet but whose proposed path goes through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Jeanne Crumly is a retired teacher who lives along that path in Nebraska. We caught up with her yesterday afternoon. She was in the middle of a meeting of affected landowners with their lawyers. I asked her, first, what they're discussing.

JEANNE CRUMLY: It's a discussion of the whole process, the history, where we currently stand and what we're looking toward in the future.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And would Keystone XL involve the actual taking of some of your land, or are you just near it and affected in some other way?

CRUMLY: No, absolutely. I'm an affected landowner. There would be two quarters of ground that they have their eyes on.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And describe where you live in Nebraska.

CRUMLY: I live in rural northeast Nebraska. Two factors, I think, are important. No. 1, we're on what they would call the edge of the sand hills. It's extremely sandy, very marginal, very fragile soil. We are on the Ogallala aquifer, so any spill could impact the aquifer, which is one of the nation's most important water sources.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And is it a family farm?

CRUMLY: It's a family farm. We're in the third generation. The fourth generation is currently taking over the operation. The fifth generation is in college - two grandsons studying ag with the intent of moving back to the farm. So we have 100 years of investment and interest in this land.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So did reps from TransCanada, the corporation that owns the pipeline, come to talk to you about this project? And if they did, what did they say?

CRUMLY: They phoned us in the very beginning to say they were taking our land, and here's what they were offering us. We came into the whole fight, I guess, neutral, really not knowing. And we have turned to our legal team to be our spokesperson because TransCanada is a operation. dollar-multimillion We don't have the expertise to read the expense and understand, and so we're relying on a really excellent legal team to represent us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And how many landowners are there being represented?

CRUMLY: They have almost a hundred landowners - 70-some are active in current lawsuits. But we have held this at bay for 10 years.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And adding to this, the recent spill in North Dakota must have affected your view of the project?

CRUMLY: Oh, no, it just confirmed our view of the project because, you know, I essentially have a master's degree in pipeline now. We've been doing this for 10 years, and we've watched spills along the way for 10 years, so it's no surprise to us. So the question isn't if it will spill, the question is where? And when it does, are we protected?

When you go back to the idea of eminent domain - it's a foreign corporation running a pipe through American soil to deliver a product to export to China, not a bit of which will be used in the United States - certainly none in Nebraska. There is no public use. There's no public gain from it, and so it's a grave misuse of eminent domain law.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you're saying that eminent domain law either shouldn't or doesn't apply here?

CRUMLY: I'm saying that the state has used eminent domain law, but I think all citizens should look at what eminent domain law is and when did it transform from public use or public good to actually corporate profit? And so I think that's something that all citizens should be concerned about and should be working at the legislative level to really have it redefined.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Jeanne Crumly, who lives along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska, thank you very much.

CRUMLY: Thank you.

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