Groups Launch Campaign to Build Solar Inside the Keystone XL Pipeline Route

Omaha, NE — On Thursday, Bold Nebraska, 350.org, Indigenous Environmental Network, CREDO and Oil Change International launched "Solar XL," a campaign to build solar arrays along the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in Nebraska.


The solar panels, which will be installed in several locations along the route, will help power the farms and ranches threatened by TransCanada’s use of eminent domain for private gain. The campaign will focus on crowdfunding through Bold Nebraska to support installation of the solar panels.

"Our fight against Keystone XL is two-fold: we're working to stop the pipeline from being built and to create the renewable energy solutions we need for a livable future,” said Wayne Frederick, member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “On the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota, renewable energy projects are already serving Indigenous peoples, and more are being planned. From Nebraska to Alberta, Indigenous peoples, farmers, and communities along Keystone XL's route know that our best resistance is through putting the answers in the path of the problem."

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Chris Carlson holds a protest sign featuring her husband Jim Carlson at the Build Our Energy Barn, west of Benedict, Nebraska, during the Stop the Keystone XL Candlelight Vigil held on February 3, 2014. Hundreds of vigils to protest Keystone XL were held across the country. (Photo Credit: Mary Anne Andrei/Bold Nebraska)

The Solar XL campaign is launching one month before the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) is expected to hold the main legal hearing for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. Nebraska is the last state to review the pipeline and the PSC has the ability to approve, reject or alter TransCanada’s proposed route. Tens of thousands of comments have been submitted to the PSC from across the country, urging Commissioners to reject the permit. 

"Building America means relying on energy that protects our property rights and ensures we have clean drinking water. Foreign tarsands in the Keystone XL pipeline, that would flow to the export market, is not in our public or our state's interest," said Bold Alliance president Jane Kleeb. "When faced with challenges, Nebraskans find solutions together to show our communities' values and the bond to the land that TransCanada cannot break or buy."

The Keystone XL pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels a day of foreign tar sands from Canada through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska then on to the export market. The pipeline would pass through farms, ranches and Indigenous land, posing a threat to the Ogallala Aquifer and other water sources that could be contaminated by spills and leaks. A worst-case spill study showed the Platte River could be polluted with almost 6 million gallons of tar sands and chemicals like benzene.

"As protectors of the water, Mother Earth, and our communities, our resolute stance against dirty projects like the Keystone XL pipeline must be equally founded upon a belief in good projects like renewable, sustainable energy," said Dallas Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network Campaign Organizer. "It's time to see a Just Transition away from fossil fuels, and like any tremendous moments of social change, it's frontline communities, leading the way. With these solar systems we are building literal beacons of change along the proposed route of what needs to end, the KXL pipeline and the fossil fuel regime it represents."

The Solar XL campaign will put renewable energy directly in Keystone XL’s path, underscoring the need to center solutions to climate change while resisting the expansion of the fossil fuel industry. Pipelines like Keystone XL would lock in disastrous levels of warming, exacerbating the climate crisis. With the Trump administration attempting to undermine U.S. action on climate, the need for a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy has never been greater.

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"Build Our Energy Barn" was built in 2013 on the Hammond family’s land inside the KXL route near York, Nebraska. It is one of the many signs of resistance to Keystone XL. (Photo Credit: Mary Anne Andrei/Bold Nebraska)

"If Nebraska grants a permit to TransCanada, people across the country will be ready to defend this renewable energy project from the fossil fuel industry's grasp," said Sara Shor, the campaign manager for 350.org's Keep it in the Ground campaign. "Putting solar panels in the path of Keystone XL is a local effort that mirrors the future we want to see at a massive scale. Fossil fuel pipelines like Keystone XL are driving us towards disastrous levels of warming, and we're already seeing its effects. Meanwhile the pipeline route continues to cut through indigenous lands that are calling for alternatives. With a complete lack of leadership in the highest levels of government, it's up to us to fight for and build the renewable energy future we need."

The campaign will focus on crowdfunding through Bold Nebraska to support the installation of the solar panels in the lead up to the Nebraska Public Service Commission hearings on Keystone XL in August. On August 6, one day before the hearings begin, pipeline opponents will march through the streets of Lincoln and urge commissioners to reject the Keystone XL permit and deny the use of eminent domain for private gain.

"I am vehemently opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline mainly because of the properties of the contents of the tar sands oil it will carry—this is not your Mother's crude oil, it is the Devil's, and it can kill," said Jim Carlson, one of the Nebraska landowners building clean solar energy in the path of Keystone XL. "We must be focused on clean, renewable energy and America can get along just fine without this foul concoction they call bitumen that TransCanada wants to pipe across our precious soil and water."

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Landowner Jim Carlson is standing up to TransCanada. #SolarXL will be built partly on his land. (Photo Credit: Mary Anne Andrei/Bold Nebraska)

The solar panels will serve not only as a form of clean energy, but as a symbol of job creation and job growth in renewable energy, making a just transition away from fossil fuels all the more urgent. In 2016, solar power employed more people than oil, coal and gas combined, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy. These findings starkly contrast Trump's promises to "bring back" coal jobs, and his administration's work to dismantle climate protections. If permits are granted for Keystone XL construction in Nebraska, TransCanada will have to tear down homegrown clean energy in order to build, and will galvanize people across the country to fight back.

"The need for the KXL pipeline product is non-existent in the United States," said Bob Allpress, another Nebraska landower involved in the campaign. "The monetary benefit to the peoples of Nebraska will be gone in 7 years, while the risks to our state are for the life of this pipeline. The installation of wind and solar production in Nebraska will provide many good Nebraska jobs and provide years of cheap electricity for everyone in our great state."

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Landowner Bob Allpress is standing up to TransCanada. #SolarXL will be built partly on his land. Photo Credit: Karen Kasmauski/iLCP

“The Keystone XL pipeline is an even worse idea now than it was nearly a decade ago when it was first proposed,” said CREDO Deputy Political Director Josh Nelson. “By building solar panels directly in the proposed pipeline’s path, the Solar XL project will serve as a powerful reminder that the future belongs to clean sources of energy like wind and solar, not dirty tar sands pipelines like Keystone XL.”

"Keystone XL is yesterday’s pipeline to transport yesterday’s energy that even the Wall St. Journal now notes is no longer needed or wanted by oil companies," said Stephen Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International. "KXL is the 21st century version of the C&O Canal, which was made obsolete before it even opened by the new technology of railroads. The SolarXL project will amplify community and native concerns with the pipelines of the past, and light the way for all of us towards a clean energy future."

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