Activists build solar ‘blockade’ along Keystone XL pipeline route


Opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline have begun constructing a series of large solar arrays to block the path of the pipeline project in Nebraska.

The solar panels, called the Solar XL project, are meant to serve as a “blockade” to stop the pipeline’s construction, according to environmental activists and senior members of the Democratic Party.

The solar panels started going up on Tuesday as Nebraska’s state energy commission began hearings to consider whether approving the pipeline is in the state’s public interest.

The panels will serve as a reminder of what could be the alternative to building a big oil pipeline to ship “830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil” nearly 1,200 miles from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, according to the anti-fossil fuel group 350.org.

Top Democrats in the state are heavily involved in the Solar XL project, according to a video posted by the group Bold Nebraska. “We are building solar directly in the path of Keystone XL,” said Jane Kleeb, chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party. Kleeb is considered an up-and-coming leader in the national party and the cornerstone of Nebraska’s opposition to the pipeline. An interview published by the Nation on Tuesday discussed her strategy to win “red America” with liberal values. She was a Republican before switching parties.

“We are doing this for a couple of reasons,” Kleeb said in the video. “TransCanada’s contract with the landowners says that you cannot build anything permanent inside the route, so we don’t take kindly to being told what to do by a foreign corporation,” she said. TransCanada is the Canadian company building the pipeline.

The group 350.org said TransCanada would be granted eminent domain to take land as it sees fit to build the pipeline if the commission approves the project. “Landowners continue to fight eminent domain for private gain knowing this would be the first time the Public Service Commission grants those powers to a foreign corporation,” the group said.

In opposition to the company’s wishes, “we’ve decided to put clean energy directly inside the path, because if the Public Service Commission granted a permit to TransCanada, they would have to tear down clean energy in order to put up their dirty tar sands pipeline,” said Kleeb, who was on site as one of the arrays was being constructed in a farmer’s cornfield.

The builders of the solar arrays said the clean energy project supports American-made technology and materials, most of which are made in the state and at nearby businesses.

Environmentalists, tribal groups and others have gathered all week in Lincoln, where the state’s regulatory commission is located, to protest the pipeline.

Environmental and tribal groups will begin submitting formal comments opposing the pipeline on Thursday, ahead of the Aug. 11 deadline for filing in either protest or support of Keystone XL. On Tuesday afternoon, the state commission heard public comments from land owners who oppose the pipeline.

If the public service commission rejects the pipeline, TransCanada would have to find a different route to connect Canada to the southern leg of the project, which already is in operation.

A spokesman for TransCanada told the Washington Examiner that the company is “hopeful Keystone XL will receive route approval” by the commission.

“It’s our ongoing focus during this process to demonstrate that Keystone XL would generate significant economic and energy security benefits for Nebraskans,” said spokesman Matthew John. “Those benefits include 4,400 jobs [in Nebraska], tens of millions of dollars in property and sales taxes that will support Nebraskan counties and stable, secure supply of North American crude oil that not only benefits Nebraskans but all Americans.”

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9 August 2017 6:00 pm
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