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5 Power Brokers Who'll Determine the Fate of the Keystone XL Pipeline and Our Future

These are the people who may be holding our future in their hands.

Photo Credit: Will Wysong / Flickr


This article was published in partnership with  GlobalPossibilities.org.

On Thursday, visitors to the PipeTech Americas Summit got a speech they weren’t planning on hearing. As employees from pipeline construction companies gathered to discuss new technology and listen to Tom Hamilton, Manager of Quality and Compliance for TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline, talk about safety, Tar Sands Blockader Ramsey Sprague jumped up from the crowd and chained himself to the audio equipment next to the projection screen. 

While security tried to figure out how to get him unchained, Sprague gave the crowd an earful of a different sort about TransCanada and pipeline safety. He told them:

TransCanada’s safety record is beyond deplorable ...TransCanada’s wanton disregard for the health of our communities is clear from it’s reckless construction practices. I’m taking action today to set the record straight: TransCanada cannot be trusted. There is now clear evidence that Keystone XL is not safe, and I will not stand aside while a multinational corporation poisons Texas communities.

And so the saga continues. Each day it seems, there is another skirmish between opponents and proponents of the pipeline. The date for a final decision on whether or not the pipeline will be allowed to cross the United States’ northern border (construction has already begun on the southern portion of the pipeline), looks like it will still be a few months down the road.

Already some important players are lining up to take sides as  more information comes in about TransCanada and the effect of tar sands mining. "Moving to tar sands, one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet, is a step in exactly the opposite direction, indicating either that governments don't understand the situation or that they just don't give a damn," one of the country’s leading climatologists, James Hansen,  told Scientific American. "People who care should draw the line."  

The Keystone XL Pipeline will be a definitive line, if allowed to be built. Here’s a look at the people who can influence the decision and may be holding our future in their hands.

1. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman

The Keystone XL pipeline route through Nebraska has been contentious from the start, in part, John M. Broder  wrote for the  New York Times, “because of the ecological value of the Sand Hills and in part because residents organized early to oppose the land acquisitions required for the rights of way.” 

The pipeline’s course through the state has been “slightly revised” — enough anyway that Nebraska’s Governor Heineman finally gave the project the nod — a major victory for pipeline proponents. A citizens action group, Bold Nebraska, which has been fighting the project, called it one of “the biggest flip-flops in Nebraska political history.” The group released a  statement saying:

Heineman turned his back on landowners and citizens who asked for an unbiased review of the risks of this pipeline. It is a shame when a politician these days can't cross party lines even to stand up for our water and family farmers and ranchers.

The economic figures Heineman cites in his approval of the route are incorrect, misleading and refuted by journalists and economic experts. Additionally, Bold Nebraska requested a pipeline expert to review economic portions of the DEQ report and found the numbers to be biased and on very shaky ground.

Heineman’s stance definitely increases the political pressure in Washington. Are there any Republican politicians left that can stand up to Big Oil?

2. Secretary of State (to be) John Kerry

And are there any Democrats that can stand up to Big Oil? We shall see.

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