|Scooped by Dennis Richards|
"Debate over the contentious Keystone XL pipeline, which over the last four years has turned into an epic battle between the oil industry and a relatively small number of impassioned Nebraska farmers and ranchers, reached a head here Thursday as activists and businessmen gathered to make their final pleas to U.S. federal government officials. More than 600 people braved a late-season snowstorm to attend the hearings, which focus on the pipeline's environmental impacts. Some drove for several hours through snow-swept country roads, then lined up for an hour or more outside the fairgrounds arena where the hearings were held. More than 200 people testified, many of whom portrayed pipeline owner TransCanada as a 'foreign company invading our land.' Local members of Native American tribes such as the Sioux used the occasion to protest broken treaties and environmental contamination. If constructed, the pipeline will be the largest in the United States and will carry mostly oilsands bitumen from Alberta to Texas refineries. It will also carry some oil from the Bakken oilfields in North Dakota. While businessmen trumpeted the pipeline project as a major job creator and tax boom that will increase American energy security, landowners worried that it would pollute their water resources, damage grasslands and contribute to global warming."