The Keystone XL Pipeline and the Ogalalla Aquifer

The Keystone XL Pipeline debate has struck hard in the state of Nebraska, causing a division in opinion amongst experts. John Stansbury, an Environmental engineering Phd., feels the pipeline poses significant danger to Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies the majority of the state’s water. Jim Goeke, a UNL hydrologist who has studied the aquifer for many years, feels strongly that the aquifer would be safe.

Stansbury paints a gravely different situation than that claimed by Transcanada as the two have had dueling reports.  A strong gap in statistics exists between the two parties. While Transcanada predicts approximately  11 significant spills over 50 years, Stansbury predicts 91 spills over 50 years.  Given recent history, this number could be even greater; Transcanada’s first pipeline has already had 12 spills in 12 months.

Jim Goeke, fellow professor and hydrologist at UNL, maintains a different standpoint from Stansberry regarding potential aquifer contamination.  The aquifer’s west to east flow, Goeke claims, would confine all potential spillages within areas east of the pipeline, only 25% of the aquifer.  Geoke maintains that the majority of the proposed pipeline would lay ten to 100 feet above the aquifer, and questions whether any oil spillage would be able to infiltrate the water supply at all.

Leading researchers in the field disagree.  Should not a consensus be reached amongst scientists before action is taken to ensure safety?  One does not have to travel far - the Gulf Coast - to witness the real effects of an oil spill on both the environment and economy of a region.

Don’t forget to attend this week’s State Department hearings. Use this opportunity to tell federal officials that you don’t support tar sands oil. Let them know that you don’t approve of oil leaks in Nebraska. Show them you will protect our state, that you will stand up for the Sandhills.

Lincoln, NE--Pershing Center
Tuesday, Sept 27
12-3:30pm, 4-8pm
226 Centennial Mall South

Atkinson, NE--West Holt High School
Thursday, Sept 29
1000 North Main Street

By Tom Means, former Center for Rural Affairs Intern