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Pipeline protest

Nathan Malachowski of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement speaks Thursday in Des Moines outside the offices of the Iowa Utilities Board. Dozens of individuals protested a proposed crude oil pipeline through Iowa.

Nebraska protests played at least a part in President Barack Obama rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline as the project became a flashpoint in a national fight over fossil fuels and climate change.

Local resistance to the still-popular project is gearing back up again now that President Donald Trump has reversed the Obama administration and given his blessing to the Keystone XL.

By accident of geography and bureaucracy, this means those old fights are headed back to Nebraska and its catch-all regulator, the state Public Service Commission.

The issue spurs heated opposition, and Nebraskans who want to express their concerns are welcomed to do so. But that opposition needs to stay within responsible bounds. The focus should be on expression of ideas, not disruption or violence.

The Nebraska way of handling controversial issues is through strong debate, not through fomenting mayhem. Mike Flood, a former speaker of the Nebraska Legislature, rightly underscored that point in a recent Midlands Voices.

Nobody here would benefit from the chaos, lawlessness and pollution that outside forces wrought on North Dakota during the Dakota Access Pipeline debate and subsequent protests. About 40 of the 670 people arrested were from North Dakota, authorities there told The World-Herald's Paul Hammel this month.

People on all sides should listen to the sound counsel from local protest organizers and supporters and resist the urge to let passions get the better of them. Instead, engage in the process.

Nebraskans have a process in place to hear from landowners, stakeholders and interested Nebraskans during this debate over a proposed 275-mile pipeline route before the state's PSC.

The PSC is weighing another application from pipeline operator TransCanada to carry tar sands oil to market. The route could be approved. It could be rejected. Or it could be moved.

Supporters of the proposed pipeline route to carry oil from Canada through Steele City, Nebraska, and down to Louisiana still say the pipeline safely boosts our national energy security and jobs by trading with a friendly neighbor.

Opponents worry about the pipeline route's threat to Nebraskans' private property rights and the risk that spills could pose to water tables.

Impassioned disagreement on the pipeline issue is legitimate. So is strong debate.

What's important now is that Midlanders show the world another way to disagree, a responsible way — our way.

This editorial appeared in the April 27 edition of the Omaha World-Herald.


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