New Keystone XL Pipeline Route to Steamroll Bald Eagles?

Bob Allpress's bald eagle nest
Bob Allpress says Nebraska DEQ left his entire farm, including this federally protected Bald Eagle nest, out of its Keystone XL pipeline review
As the Obama administration gears up for a final decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, we’re hearing an alarming story straight from a Nebraska landowner: The revised route runs right through an American bald eagle nest.

That’s right, the revised route—the one TransCanada told us we could trust to protect our wildlife, public lands and clean water.

National Wildlife Federation has already reported extensively on how tar sands production threatens Canada’s caribou and wolves. But America’s wildlife is also threatened by Keystone XL, as Big Oil’s rush to pad corporate profits bumps up against America’s conservation values.

Nebraska Landowner Sounds the Alarm

Bob Allpress, the Nebraska landowner who raised the red flag in testimony last month, charges that the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (the state agency tasked with examining the route through Nebraska) failed in their responsibility.

“Even though I contacted the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality several times, nobody from the DEQ ever contacted us nor inspected the route through our farm,” says Bob, who lives in Naper, NE. “If this report is this flawed within two miles of the South Dakota border, the entire report is suspect.”

After the DEQ ignored Allpress, NWF reached out to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which contacted the U.S. State Department and asked them to shift the route away from this eagle’s nest and impose mitigation measures to protect eagles in the area. It remains to be seen whether the State Department will do.

TransCanada, the company trying to build the Keystone XL pipeline, might find a way around this particular problem—they may decide to re-route the pipeline a few hundred feet around the nest, or just build through the area and assume the eagles will find another home. But the bottom line is that TransCanada and the Nebraska DEQ failed to spot this problem when they had the chance, and it took a landowner and an outcry from conservation groups to even bring this problem to light.

New Route for Keystone XL Pipeline Just as Dangerous?

Bald Eagle
Bald eagles are back from the brink of extinction, but the tar sands industry has visions of dollar bills clouding their patriotism. (Photo: Art Goldenberg)
Beyond the issue of TransCanada’s shoddy treatment of our national bird, the bigger picture is crucial. The White House owes Americans a serious, thorough accounting of how this project and others like it would damage our environment and threaten public health.

How President Obama responds will give us a clear view of his true priorities and determine—perhaps more than any other decision he makes—his conservation legacy.

The decision to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline is currently up to President Obama and the U.S. State Department, who must review the project and decide whether to allow it to go forward.

Obama rejected the original permit application early in 2012, based mainly on concerns about damage to the Ogallala aquifer and other crucial resources in Nebraska. National Wildlife Federation and our partner groups in Nebraska are deeply troubled by the lack of consideration given so far to climate change and wildlife impacts, and the revised route still poses serious problems for the aquifer.

“Why are we risking our water—the main source of our state’s economy—for a foreign export pipeline?” asks Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska.

More Wildlife Species at Risk

In addition to Keystone’s game-changing (or if you believe NASA’s James Hansen, game-ending) effect on global carbon emissions, wildlife is at particular risk from tar sands development, pipeline spills and construction:

  • In the event of a spill in Nebraska, the iconic sandhill cranes that migrate in vast numbers through the Platte River valley would be exposed to toxins like benzene. And at every river crossing along Keystone XL’s 2,000 mile route, fish habitat would be destroyed and the riparian system disturbed.
  • Until earlier this year, it was official policy in Canada to hunt down and poison gray wolves as a “solution” to caribou habitat loss; a public outcry led by NWF caused the Alberta provincial government enough embarrassment to rethink that practice.
  • Whooping cranes and hundreds of other species of migratory birds are seeing their northern nesting grounds bulldozed on an unprecedented scale as the oil industry expands its footprint in the Canadian tar sands region.
  • The million-gallon Enbridge pipeline tar sands spill in Michigan killed or poisoned blue herons, muskrats, turtles, and dozens of other species. Yet we still don’t have state or federal laws requiring agencies to consider the unique impacts of tar sands spills, and according to Prof. John Stansbury of the University of Nebraska, “The bottom line is that a thorough and adequate study of the impacts has not been done [to date], and that includes the DEQ report.”

According to Dr. Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation, “Bald eagle recovery is one of America’s great conservation success stories, something we can all be proud of. But oil companies’ priorities are so skewed that they can’t even be troubled to take wildlife into account. This situation is a reminder that the pipeline will affect wildlife from one end to the other.”

Take ActionTell the Obama Administration to reject Keystone XL and protect people and wildlife from dangerous tar sands!


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