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SOURCE: Inside Climate News

DATE: May 16, 2019

SNIP: Standing on the banks of the Keya Paha River (Nebraska) where it cuts through his farm, Bob Allpress points across a flat expanse of sand to where a critical shut-off valve is supposed to rise from the Keystone XL pipeline once it’s buried in his land. The Keya Paha flooded several weeks ago, and when it did, the rush of newly melted water drove debris, sand and huge chunks of ice deep inland, mowing down trees and depositing a long wall of ice 6 feet high and 30 feet wide across Allpress’s property.

“It would’ve taken out their shut-off valve,” Allpress said of the river flooding. “Right where they propose to put it at. And it wouldn’t have been a good thing.”

If the Trump administration and the state of Nebraska have their way, the Keystone XL oil pipeline will be built, and about a mile of it will slice through Allpress’s 900-acre farm, where he and his brothers raise corn, alfalfa and cattle.

Without adequate environmental review, grave risks such as flooding and erosion “haven’t been analyzed and the pipeline is going to go forward without agencies fully understanding risks and threats to the project,” said Doug Hayes, a lawyer for the Sierra Club, which is a plaintiff in the suits.

The threat to pipelines from erosion prompted the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the federal regulator responsible for the safe operation of the country’s energy pipelines, to issue an advisory two weeks ago to pipeline owners. It urged them to institute safeguards after a recent spate of accidents from soil shifting around pipelines. In the last decade, fast currents and high floodwaters exposed two pipelines in the Yellowstone River in Montana that both ruptured, leaking a total of about 93,000 gallons of oil.

The Nebraska flooding this spring destroyed a dam, washed away bridges and roads and drastically changed the contours of waterways. Critics of the Keystone XL project see a risky convergence ahead if the pipeline gets built.

The 2018 National Climate Assessment warned that Nebraska could face more of the intense rainfall and wet spring weather that overwhelmed the state this year. Nebraska scientists who worked on the climate assessment noted that climate change would put the state’s fossil fuel infrastructure at risk. In a finding echoed for at least five years in authoritative government reports, the latest climate assessment said pipelines in the northern Great Plains including Nebraska “are vulnerable to damage or disruption from increasing heavy precipitation events and associated flooding and erosion.”