"Are they working for our citizens or are they working for TransCanada?"
That's the question Jane Kleeb, leader of the anti-pipeline activist group Bold Nebraska, is asking after reports surfaced that TransCanada, the company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, is in talks with local Nebraska law enforcement officials over how to deal with the likely influx of climate activists to the state if and when the tar sands project is approved.
"That's a conflict of interest," said Kleeb.
According to local news reports, the Nebraska State Patrol and county sheriffs met with representatives from Transcanada last week to discuss "security concerns" during the construction of the not-yet-approved Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, particularly the influence of "outside" protesters and potentially "heated confrontations between construction crews and opponents."
"Will we engage in civil disobedience? Yes. Will we be violent? No." - Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska
Those discussions reportedly included the possibility of TransCanada hiring off-duty local officers to work as private security guards during construction—a practice which the firm has used elsewhere "for quite a while," notes the anti-pipeline group Tar Sands Blockade.
Kleeb added that the "closed-door" talks were “a pretty one-sided conversation” and later tweeted, "they don't bother calling any of us to engage in convo just relying on info from Transcanada who is making us out as radicals."
The Norfolk Daily News reports:
[Transcanada] was invited to offer examples of the kinds of protests and demonstrations they've encountered in Texas, where the southern leg of the project is under construction.
The information was welcome for counties that don't often see demonstrations, said Antelope County Sheriff Robert Moore.
"We talked about the fine line between peaceful and what crosses the line and makes it a criminal," he said.
Kleeb said there is no reason to believe violence will accompany pipeline construction in Nebraska: "Will we engage in civil disobedience? Yes. Will we be violent? No."
A recent surge in direct actions along the pipeline route has successfully shut down numerous construction sites with protesters locking themselves to equipment, climbing cranes, blockading refineries and one man even encasing his arm in a chunk of buried concrete.
A complete list of actions by the group Tar Sands Blockade can be viewed here.
Transcanda, however, will have a few more hurdles to jump before any construction on the Nebraska leg of the pipeline begins. On Tuesday, supervisors from Holt County, which lies on the proposed pipeline route, voted unanimously to pass a resolution preventing all crude oil and tar sands pipelines from crossing the county.
"This resolution sends a clear message to future pipeline developers: Nebraskans are drawing a line in the Sandhills and standing together against export pipelines in our state," said Amy Schaffer of Bold Nebraska in a statement following the vote.
However, County Supervisor Chairman Bill Tielke acknowledged the vote may be nothing more than a symbolic gesture.
“Whatever is decided in Washington, D.C., will happen, but our citizens have concerns and we are addressing it,” he said.