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Sean Hackbarth Lost Opportunities Tour truck in Steele City, Nebraska.Outside the Keystone pumping station at Steele City, Nebraska.
Steele City, NE

Miles traveled: 1362.

9:00 am.

On Monday, my fingers were freezing at the U.S.-Canada border. Today, it's 80 degrees in Steele City, NE, where, once it is built, the Keystone XL pipeline will connect with other pipelines and allow North American oil to flow to Gulf Coast refineries.

We pass a smattering of homes and drive one mile out of town where metal tubes sprout up from the ground. This tiny community is very familiar with pipelines. Two run through town.

Pipes at the Keystone pumping station in Steele City, Nebraska.Pipes at the Keystone pumping station in Steele City, Nebraska.Pipes at the Keystone pumping station in Steele City, Nebraska.


TransCanada provided us hard hats for the tour. Safety first.

Sean Hackbarth and Matt Koch wearing hard hats.Sean Hackbarth and Matt Koch wearing hard hats.

Pump stations like the one we're visiting help move oil down the pipeline. The Steele City facility is an impressive display of hydraulic engineering. Attached are four pumps each with 5,000 horsepower engines. Inside the monitoring station sits state-of-the-art equipment keeping an eye on temperature, vibrations, and fluid pressure sensors to ensure that oil travels safely.

Pump at the Keystone pump station in Steele City, Nebraska.Pump at the Keystone pump station in Steele City, Nebraska.Pump at the Keystone pump station in Steele City, Nebraska.


This is where the Lost Opportunities Tour ends. For the last week, I've heard stories about the many lost opportunities in local communities caused by the six-year delay of the Keystone XL pipeline. Here's a taste of what would be happening if the pipeline were operating:

A new school in Glasgow, MT would be paid by taxes from the pipeline instead of from property owners. Bakken crude oil would be entering the pipeline in Baker, MT and help it become a regional energy hub. A North Dakota field that held 220 miles of steel pipe would be empty. Business owners in Murdo, SD would have hotels, restaurants, and RV parks open year-around to serve the workers building the pipeline. At the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch, cattle would be grazing on land that you’d never know had a pipeline running beneath it. Winner, SD would have new transmission lines to attract the wind power industry.


Just as local communities are losing out from the pipeline’s delay, so is the country as a whole. According to the State Department, the Keystone XL pipeline will create 42,000 jobs and add $3.4 billion to the nation’s economy.

Karen Harbert, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy explained:

Of course the benefits of Keystone XL will be felt far beyond the pipeline route itself. By supplanting oil from unfriendly nations with oil from Canada, America will be improving its national security. The daily supply of oil from Keystone will be used to fuel greater investment in our economy, creating jobs and much needed revenue at all levels of government.

Unfortunately, this administration’s decision-making process has been guided by politics. No infrastructure project should be forced to wait this long simply to receive an answer—especially after receiving multiple favorable reviews by the permitting agency.

This is the end of the tour, but the opportunities for new jobs, additional local tax revenue, economic development, and improved energy security continue to be lost as long as the Obama Administration delays the pipeline.

America has waited long enough. It’s time to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Follow the Keystone XL Lost Opportunities Tour with the #KXLtour hashtag, on Twitter (@energy21), on Facebook, and at the Energy Institute’s website.

Sean Hackbarth York, Nebraska water towerWater tower in York, Nebraska.
York, Nebraska

Miles Traveled: 1168

10:00 a.m.

York feels like small town America. A water tower in the shape of a hot air balloon greets you as you leave I-80 and enter town. When you walk along its downtown, local residents smile and say, “hi.” You can see and feel the town's can-do attitude.

It’s also one of the counties that is losing out on economic opportunities from the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The State Department estimates that York County will get $932,000 in local tax revenue from the first year of the Keystone XL pipeline’s operation. How could this community invest that money?

For an idea, the Platte Institute, a Nebraska public policy think tank, looked at when the first Keystone pipeline was built in 2010, and how it benefited Nebraska counties:

Saline County’s valuation of the pipeline amounted to $16.7 million, helping the Dorchester school district generate funds for repaying the $4 million bond issue passed in 2008 to construct a new school in the district. Dorchester School Superintendent Mitch Kubricek noted that the increased revenue from the pipeline could allow for property tax levies to be lowered.

The report continued:

David Mach, chairman of the Butler County Board of Supervisors, was so pleased with the impact from the first pipeline that he said the county would be willing to have a second pipeline built in their county.

York County won’t be alone in benefiting from the Keystone XL pipeline. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss estimated that “the twelve counties in KXL’s path will see substantial increases in tax receipts during the construction and operation of the pipeline.”

But that won’t happen until the administration ends its six-year delay and approves the Keystone XL pipeline.

Follow the Keystone XL Lost Opportunities Tour with the #KXLtour hashtag, on Twitter (@energy21), on Facebook, and at the Energy Institute’s website.

Sean Hackbarth Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline in Winner, South Dakota. Winner, SD.

Miles traveled: 896.

2:00 p.m.

After Buffalo, we traveled to Rapid City to chat with local supporters. After going to see Mount Rushmore—it was breathtaking—we drove to Murdo, South Dakota, home town of Senator John Thune (R-SD) and spent the night. The next morning after a hearty breakfast—pancakes, eggs, and bacon for me—with local pipeline supporters, we drove to Winner.

Winner is a South Dakota town of 3,000 and is popular with pheasant hunters from all over the country who visit every fall.

Welcome to Winner, South DakotaWelcome to Winner, South Dakota


Over a lunch of hamburgers and sandwiches, local business leaders and community officials told us about the lost opportunities for economic development in their area because of the pipeline’s delay.

According to John Meyer, owner of Office Products Center, the Keystone XL pipeline “would be a good economic shot in the arm” for Winner. “So many times we are bypassed due to no interstate, not enough power, no natural gas, employee base, and so on.”

He explained that the pipeline’s pump stations will need a lot of electricity, and transmission lines will be brought in to accommodate that demand. Those lines will let Winner market itself to other industries that also rely on them . The area will be able to “add wind farms now that we have the transmission line” Meyer said, “increasing the property tax base and creating permanent jobs.”

Lunch with Keystone XL supporters in Winner, South Dakota.Lunch with Keystone XL supporters in Winner, South Dakota.Lunch with Keystone XL supporters in Winner, South Dakota.


In 2012, Meyer testified about the pipeline before the Senate for the U.S. Chamber about the pipeline.

Federal government estimates that Winner and Tripp County will see $3.4 million in new property tax revenue in the first year of the pipeline’s operation.

“On a local level, what could a million dollars do for our county, schools, library, etc.? On a state level, what could it do for improvements, teachers’ pay?” Meyer asked

Another lost opportunity from the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline has hit farmers who are finding it difficult to ship their grain.

Tom Kauer, president of the South Central Development Corporation, told us that as more Canadian oil travels by rail, less grain can be moved.  “Millions of bushels are sitting on the ground,” he said.

What's more, without the Keystone XL pipeline, there are plans to put more Canadian oil on trains. “We don’t have the rail for more trains,” worries Winner Mayor Jess Keesis.

As you can see, people in Winner know what opportunities for economic development have been lost by the pipeline’s six-year delay. But they remain optimistic.

How couldn’t you in a place called, “Winner?”

Follow the Keystone XL Lost Opportunities Tour with the #KXLtour hashtag, on Twitter (@energy21), on Facebook, and at the Energy Institute’s website.

Sean Hackbarth Jim Doolittle at the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch.Jim Doolittle at the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch.
Buffalo, SD

Miles traveled: 560

9:00 am (Sep. 16)

I’m standing in a pasture. The grass around me is greener than it usually is because Buffalo has already gotten three-times the amount of rain they usually get.

Earlier, we stopped at the #3 Saloon to meet Jim Doolittle and his wife Karen Wagner, owners of the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch.

Their 13,000-acre ranch is considered to be “average size” by South Dakota standards, according to Jim. I’m used to Wisconsin dairy farms that have only a few hundred acres and 60 dairy cows. Karen tells me the ranch has been in their family for about 100 years.

We met Jim and Karen, because the Keystone XL pipeline will run for three miles across their ranch on its way to Nebraska. These landowners understand that energy infrastructure can coexist with responsible land management.

After getting some background about the ranch, we hopped into trucks, drove a few miles out of town, and passed through an open gate into the pasture I’m standing in.

To my left is a fenced in area. It looks like a pen for cattle but instead of animals, it will hold pipe and construction material for the pipeline. Beyond the pen is a grass-covered ridge going down to a river below. Some cattle are grazing there.

Panorama of the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch near Buffalo, South Dakota.Panorama of the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch near Buffalo, South Dakota.The Doolittle/Wagner Ranch near Buffalo, South Dakota.


Jim tells us that the Keystone XL pipeline will be a “big significant increase from a tax standpoint.” It’s expected that Buffalo and Harding County will get $3.9 million in property tax revenue in the first full year of the Keystone XL’s operation, a 145% increase. But because of the delay, the local community is missing out on using the tax revenue for a new athletic facilities and other school improvements.

It will also have a “big permanent impact as well,” Jim adds. To power the pump houses that will push the oil along, new electricity facilities will have to be built. Jim explains that permanent jobs will be created to maintain those facilities.

Wooden marker where the Keystone XL pipeline will travel through the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch.

Wooden marker where the Keystone XL pipeline will travel through the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch.


To the pipeline’s critics, Jim noted, “Pipelines aren’t a new concept.” Americans have lived for decades with thousands of miles of pipelines below their feet.

Then Jim walks us a few hundred feet away from the future pipe lot to a small wooden marker, about two-feet tall. Its cracked surface was once painted bright pink. Now, it’s weathered brown and grey. [See the top photo.] A few years ago, TransCanada drove that marker into the ground showing where the center of the pipeline will pass.

I look to the north to the U.S.-Canada border where I was on Monday. The Keystone XL pipeline will travel past a small windmill on a hill in the distance, go under the river, up a bank, across the pasture, then under a road on it’s way south. I stand in front of that wooden stick and realize, the pipeline will pass below my feet. 

For Jim and Karen, the lost opportunities from the Keystone XL pipeline’s delay are the missing local tax revenue, permanent jobs that would be created, and reduced energy security.

Follow the Keystone XL Lost Opportunities Tour with the #KXLtour hashtag, on Twitter (@energy21), on Facebook, and at the Energy Institute’s website.

Sean Hackbarth Steel pipe for the Keystone XL pipeline piled near Gascoyne, North Dakota. Gascoyne, ND

7:00 am (Sep. 16)

Miles traveled: 520

Instead of going straight into South Dakota, this morning we took a detour into North Dakota. We wanted to see what 220 miles of pipe looked like in one place.

In a field near Gascoyne, ND sits a field of steel pipe. It’s about one-quarter of all the pipe needed to build the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Once the pipeline is approved, this pipe will be divided among 26 pipe yards, about 30 miles apart along the pipeline’s route.

I wrote about this place a year ago, and now I saw it. It was both impressive and disappointing.

Impressive, because it's miles and miles of pipe stacked on top of each other.

Disappointing becasue these stacks of North American steel have been sitting in this spot for 3.5 years.

Talk about a lost opportunity.

These photos don't do justice to how much pipe is here. It goes on for acres.

Steel pipe for the Keystone XL pipeline piled near Gascoyne, North Dakota.Steel pipe for the Keystone XL pipeline piled near Gascoyne, North Dakota.

 

Steel pipe for the Keystone XL pipeline piled near Gascoyne, North Dakota.Steel pipe for the Keystone XL pipeline piled near Gascoyne, North Dakota.

Steel pipe for the Keystone XL pipeline piled near Gascoyne, North Dakota.Steel pipe for the Keystone XL pipeline piled near Gascoyne, North Dakota.

Steel pipe for the Keystone XL pipeline piled near Gascoyne, North Dakota.Steel pipe for the Keystone XL pipeline piled near Gascoyne, North Dakota.

Follow the Keystone XL Lost Opportunities Tour with the #KXLtour hashtag, on Twitter (@energy21), on Facebook, and at the Energy Institute’s website.

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