National News

KXL: Offer to Nebraska farmers has expired

By Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press

WASHINGTON - The company behind the Keystone XL pipeline has a message for Nebraska landowners resisting the project: the sweet financial offers are going, going, gone.

The latest round of offers for easement deals expired Tuesday and, according to TransCanada Corp., future ones will be less lucrative.

"They will not be as generous and will be a much closer reflection to actual land and crop values as opposed to the enhanced offers we had been making," TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said in an email.

"We can't say to what extent the differences will be."

That announcement comes as the pipeline battle shifts to a new arena: the Nebraska Supreme Court.

To date, the offers to landowners have been skyrocketing, and people who refused what would be described as one final offer later received additional offers that were as much as seven times richer.

Now, the state's highest court will hear a dispute over a law that could force landowners to allow the pipeline through their property. They had managed to overturn the law in a lower court, and the Obama administration has cited that legal uncertainty as its reason for delaying a decision on whether to grant a permit for the pipeline to enter the U.S.

The company says it will continue working with the 100-plus Nebraska landowners still resisting the project — while about four-fifths of Nebraskans on the route have already signed easement deals, as have people in other states.

But there will be no more up-front payments for crop damage that exceed actual yield and commodity values, TransCanada says. Some of those conditions were spelled out in the latest offer letter sent out to landowners last month, with the expiry date listed as Tuesday.

One anti-Keystone farmer, Jim Tarnick, said he doesn't know of anyone who took the latest offer.

Jim Carlson turned it down, although he said he's heard of others who accepted. Carlson was offered nearly $300,000 to let the pipe cross two parcels of land with corn and soybean crops over more than 400 hectares. The offer contained an immediate, up-front signing bonus of $132,000, his to keep regardless of whether the pipeline got built.

Carlson said the total offer amounted to a little less than one year's revenue, given current sky-high prices for corn. The downside, on the other hand, was hard to ignore, the Polk County farmer said in an interview.

"I just thought ... the risk wasn't worth the reward," he said. "(The money) would be very welcome, if it didn't have the ramifications the pipeline would have. (But) it wouldn't change my lifestyle."

So how much would be enough? Carlson said everybody has a breaking point — and, for him, a $1 billion offer would be a no-brainer, a $50 million offer would likely be enough, and $1 million would prompt a dilemma.

But he said he has a new concern: global warming.

Carlson never really cared about the issue before, but started paying attention because of Keystone. He recently watched Al Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," and was mortified by what he saw.

He admitted some folks can't understand why he isn't following the lead of some of his neighbours: take the cash advance, hope the pipeline never happens, and pocket the easy money.

"A lot of people think I'm a nut — or crazy — for turning down that much money," he said with a chuckle.

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