Roma Amundson: Keystone Xl is a gift to Nebraskans

4/3/2017

Omaha World-Herald -The writer, a retired brigadier general in the Nebraska National Guard, is a Lancaster County commissioner and the state volunteer chairwoman for Vets4Energy.

President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order to revive the Keystone XL project, which ground to a halt under the former administration.

This is good news for Nebraska, as the oil pipeline promises to bring much-needed jobs and tax revenue to the Cornhusker State.

Spanning 1,179 miles, the Keystone XL pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta, Canada, to an already-constructed pipeline in Steele City, Nebraska. The project is expected to produce 42,000 jobs nationally, boost local government revenue and generate private-sector investment in the communities along its route.

Those benefits have already begun to materialize. For instance, the completed section of the Keystone XL pipeline has generated almost 5,000 new jobs and $5.7 billion in economic activity in Texas and Oklahoma.

Our state can expect to reap similar rewards when construction on the new section of the pipeline gets underway in cities such as Mills, O’Neill, Albion and York.

Construction alone will support more than 5,000 jobs a year in Nebraska and contribute over $800 million to the state’s economic activity. And once the oil begins flowing, Nebraska can expect an additional $1.8 billion economic boost over 15 years, resulting in more than $120 million in new tax revenue for the state.

It’s no wonder, then, that the project enjoys such broad approval among Nebraska’s leaders. In 2014, two-thirds of the state’s lawmakers signed a letter pledging their support for the project.

Despite the clear economic reasons for supporting the Keystone pipeline, some activists have spent the past several years fighting to block the project. According to these critics, any potential financial benefits are outweighed by the safety risks posed by the pipeline, specifically the risk of a leak.

Their concerns, however, aren’t borne out by the facts.

According to the 2016 Association of Oil Pipe Lines Safety Report, “99.999 percent of crude oil and petroleum products delivered by pipeline reach their destination safely.” When leaks do occur, they are rarely severe enough to threaten public health or safety.

Most of the pipeline leaks in 2015 released no more than 5 barrels of oil. Such incidents are also increasingly uncommon, declining by 52 percent in the past 17 years.

This trend is largely the result of advancements in pipeline technology. And the Keystone pipeline will feature some of the most sophisticated safety features available today, from corrosion-resistant coating to automatic shut-off valves and even a satellite leak-detection system.

As former Nebraska U.S. Rep. Lee Terry noted, the Keystone pipeline is “the safest, most highly engineered pipeline to date” and will represent “the gold standard of pipeline safety.” His view is shared by experts throughout the industry.

The opposition to Keystone XL has delayed this valuable project long enough. And thanks to the recent executive order, Nebraskans are now one step closer to reaping the substantial economic rewards that this pipeline has long promised.

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