As the State Department’s release of Keystone XL’s final Environmental Impact Statement draws near, TransCanada is using a new tactic to try to get landowners in Nebraska to give up their land to the proposed pipeline — drastically upping their payouts for a limited time only.
As the Canadian Press reports, TransCanada, the company behind the 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline, has upped their cash offers to Nebraska residents in the pipeline’s proposed route by up to 700 percent in hopes of securing the land — and quelling some of the pipeline’s opposition — ahead of the president’s decision on the project. One family who talked to the Canadian Press said that back in 2012, TransCanada offered them $8,900 to allow the pipeline to run through their farmland. Just a few weeks ago, TransCanada increased the offer to $61,977.84. But that offer doesn’t last long — the $27,000 signing bonus that’s included in the offer goes down to $18,000 after 30 days and disappears completely after 45.
Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, told ThinkProgress that TransCanada’s most recent tactic of trying to buy out landowners in Nebraska doesn’t surprise her.
“These tactics are used all the time by oil companies,” she said. “If the landowner’s not signing at first, they offer more money; they threaten things like eminent domain; or they threaten things like ‘your offer is going to go down in 30 days’ when we now have landowners who have five offers from TransCanada and they go up every single time.”
The increased payouts are being offered to the approximately 115 other people in Nebraska who have so far refused to allow Keystone XL onto their land. Nebraska is the only state where residents have managed to continue to hold out against Keystone XL — in all the other states along the pipeline’s route, landowners have signed away their land for use by TransCanada. In Nebraska, the residents who are still fighting Keystone are working with Nebraska Easement Action Team, a group that’s trying to get fair contracts for landowners who are in the path of Keystone XL. Some of these landowners are suing the state of Nebraska, claiming that, among other things, the state legislature violated the state constitution by granting eminent domain authority to the governor.
Kleeb, whose group has worked with these Nebraska landowners in opposing Keystone XL, said that the terms of the current contract aren’t in landowners’ best interest, and she hopes that through holding out on TransCanada, Nebraskans won’t have to accept contracts that don’t put their rights first.
“Right now, TransCanada’s contract is very one-sided,” she said. “It pushes a lot of the liability onto landowners’ shoulders, so when a spill happens you know of course they have to clean it up with EPA and clean water act laws, but there’s nothing in there about economic damages from a federal level. So landowners under this contract could have to sue TransCanada, and we all know how that goes — just look at the fisherman with the BP oil spill.”
Kleeb also said the current contract doesn’t stipulate that TransCanada has to remove the pipeline after it’s done using it — so decades from now, when TransCanada is done shipping tar sands through Keystone XL, they don’t have to pay to dig up the pipeline or reclaim the land.
“It’s less about the money — it’s more about the terms and the contract that these landowners have to live with are awful and very one-sided, and we want a better contract if landowners do have to live with this pipeline on their land,” she said.
Though President Obama hasn’t signaled when he’ll make a decision on Keystone XL, the American Petroleum Institute says it thinks the State Department’s final Environmental Impact Statement could be released as early as this week.