A Keystone pipeline
A majority of rural Nebraskans support construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline but want it built on a route that avoids the Sandhills and the Ogallala aquifer, according to the Nebraska Rural Poll.
The 17th annual University of Nebraska-Lincoln poll was sent to 6,350 households in Nebraska's 84 nonmetropolitan counties in March and April. About one third -- 2,323 – responded.
The poll included several questions related to recycling, land and natural resource priorities and the controversial Keystone pipeline, slated to be built to transport crude oil from Canada to Texas refineries.
Only 13 percent of respondents said they thought the pipeline should not be built because environmental risks outweigh the economic benefits.
Sixty-one percent disagreed with that position.
Sixty-five percent, however, agreed the pipeline should be built along an alternative route that avoids the environmentally sensitive Sandhills and Ogallala aquifer; 15 percent disagreed.
The currently planned route does avoid the Sandhills but it would go through some still-sensitive terrain and over eastern reaches of the Ogallala.
Opinions were mixed on who should control the decision to build the pipeline. Forty-six percent of respondents disagreed that the decision should be between only the landowners and pipeline owners and should not involve the government, but 30 percent agreed with that statement, and almost one-fourth had no opinion.
Seventy-three percent of respondents agreed that if the government ultimately decides the fate of the XL pipeline, the decision on location should be controlled by state government, not federal government.
"Build it but build it responsibly" is how Brad Lubben, UNL public policy specialist, described rural Nebraskans' take on the pipeline.
And, added rural sociologist Randy Cantrell: "We trust our state government more than our federal government."
Differences among demographic groups were significant in some cases. For example, 22 percent of respondents making less than $20,000 a year said they believed the pipeline should not be built at all because of environmental concerns, while only 9 percent of those making $60,000 or more felt that way.
That was surprising, Cantrell said, given the jobs the pipeline's construction is expected to bring to Nebraska.