NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:
On Thursday, April 18, in Grand Island, Neb., the U.S. State Department had its last public comment hearing before making a recommendation to President Obama concerning permitting of the Keystone XL pipeline.
I was fortunate to be able to go and witness the resolve of the people of Nebraska and other states to stop the building of that export pipeline. Of the nearly 300 people who testified at the hearing, approximately 23, many of whom were connected to TransCanada in some way, spoke in support of the pipeline.
Those speaking against KXL varied in age, race and occupation. Doctors and nurses spoke of treating people effected by the chemicals involved in the processing and mixture of the diluted bitumen for piping.
Attorneys spoke of the lack of spill response equipment and procedures that TransCanada was outlining for use in case of a spill. This concern was backed up by several residents from Mayflower, Arkansas and Kalamazoo, Mich., who displayed photos of the horrible damages they face after tar sands “oil” spills in their communities. The people of Kalamazoo have been working on it for three years.
Evan Vokes, a metallurgic engineer and TransCanada whistleblower, testified that, “TransCanada has a long history of rhetoric for theoretical quality of pipelines, as opposed to what they have built in the United States. TransCanada has not been honest about its construction quality problems that were and are relevant to this hearing.”
“Tar sands’ intrusion ultimately affects our climate negatively,” said Faith Spotted Eagle, counselor and founding grandmother of the Brave Heart Society of the South Dakota Yankton Sioux. “It is unacceptable to create jobs that will harm the unborn. We will not relent in our time to stand firm to oppose Keystone XL.”
Most speakers were ranchers and farmers who had been on their land an average of five generations and who were not willing to give it up for a foreign corporation. Nor were they willing to put their families and farms at risk of exposure to toxic chemicals.
More than a few of those grizzled old farmers said that they would lay down their lives before they would let the pipeline cross their land. One rancher’s 16-year-old daughter, Helen Winston, spoke for the crowd when she read into the record the poem she had written for the hearing:
Do you see us?
A sea of desperate faces undulating in the winds of tyranny
But even as we are frozen and blown around, we do not bend
Do you see us?
Standing tall together despite the cold, exhaustion and weariness woven into our expressions
Regardless of the physical toll this fight has taken upon us, we still stand tall
Because here in Nebraska, we’re not in the business of leaving our neighbors to be beaten into a corner
We refuse to give up, even though at times we’ve been on the brink of doing so
Do you see us?
Standing on street corners with our signs held high
Marching down sidewalks shoulder to shoulder
Bowing our heads in silent prayer as we join hands and hold firm despite the cold
Do you hear us?
Shouting from every rooftop
Chanting at every rally
Singing our songs of freedom even as the hands of TransCanada seek to smother us
The earth shudders and trembles beneath our feet
The wind sings our names as it dances over the Sandhills
The mighty Ogallala peeks above the ground in Holt County to smile up at us
Because you can feel us
We are many peoples
We are a nation
We are tectonic
We are the farmers, the ranchers, the teachers, the taxpayers
We are the future
We will fight to our last for this place
Because, look around: what do you see here that’s not worth fighting for?
And should the president make the wrong decision
A shockwave will run itself around the world
You will call upon us and ask: “What the hell was that?”
And we will reply in unison: “Can you feel us now?”
Norman Citizen’s Climate Lobby