Nebraska law officers discuss pipeline security

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska law officers have been discussing security arrangements for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, even though it hasn’t been given a final federal blessing.

The Lincoln Journal reported that the Nebraska State Patrol invited county sheriffs and prosecutors along the pipeline’s Nebraska path to a meeting in Grand Island last week.

Nance County Sheriff Dave Moore said the law officers were anticipating Nebraska protests that would echo those occurring along the pipeline leg between Cushing, Okla., and refineries on the Gulf Coast in Texas. On Monday two people were arrested after chaining themselves to a piece of equipment at a pipeline construction site in Hughes County, Okla.

Moore said the seven uniformed members of his east-central Nebraska department wouldn’t be able to handle construction security alone.

“We’ll rely on the State Patrol and hopefully on the federal government for some outside help,” he said Wednesday. “That’s what this meeting was about — just so we’re all on the same page and to understand that people do have their rights.”

Nebraska State Patrol spokeswoman Deb Collins said they know there could be problems.

“We don’t expect to have issues. A meeting like this is just an opportunity to be better prepared if there would be,” she said.

The proposed $7.6 billion pipeline would cross Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Pipeline developer TransCanada also has proposed connecting it to the Bakken oil field in Montana and North Dakota.

The State Department has jurisdiction over the pipeline because it would run across the U.S.-Canadian border. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to give the department’s final recommendation to President Barack Obama this summer.

If construction proceeds in Nebraska, Moore said, he worries more about outside protesters than Nebraska residents.

“I think the locals will handle it very well,” he said. “We’re a little concerned about people traveling to do their protest. We do not know them.”

Pipeline opponent Jane Kleeb, who also is executive director of Bold Nebraska, said the law enforcement meeting was troubling. Meeting behind closed doors, without inviting opponents, was “a pretty one-sided conversation” about something that hasn’t happened in Nebraska, she said.

There’s no reason to fear protesters in Nebraska, Kleeb said.

“Will we engage in civil disobedience? Yes,” she said. “Will we be violent? No.”