Rosemary Kilmurry, Atkinson, Nebraska. In the Path of the Pipeline. April 2014. Proposed by Canadian energy company TransCanada, the extension of the pipeline carrying tar sands oil from Alberta would pass through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, ultimately arriving at refineries around the Gulf of Mexico. Supporters of the pipeline trumpet the jobs a big energy infrastructure project can produce, while opponents are quick to point out the environmental impacts of transporting tar sand crude across North America.
Efforts to approve the pipeline have had mixed success in Congress, where a bill failed in the then-Democrat controlled Senate, but the Republican-run House recently passed a bill earlier this year. However, even if the newly Republican controlled Senate were to send a completed bill to the White House, President Barack Obama has pledged a veto.
This can seem like a large proxy issue taken to the extreme, but not to those living in western Nebraska, where the pipeline can very well cut right through their backyard. The issue has become quite contentious, as more than 100 landowners have refused to grant land easements to TransCanada, a fight that has been recently playing out in the Kansas Supreme Court. Earlier in 2015, the Nebraska Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit brought by landowners because the 7-judge court couldn't come to a 5-person majority needed to overturn the state's law which permitted the pipeline. At 4-3, Nebraska's law allowing the Keystone XL pipeline stood. As of Jan. 20, TransCanada began legal action to invoke eminent domain against the landowners who have refused. This has since been blocked and will go back to the Nebraska Supreme Court.
I set out to both photograph the physical space the pipeline will cut through, but also the landowners affected. I don’t think any these people consider themselves activists. They farm or ranch the land, just like their parents or grandparents did and they’re just trying to keep it for future generations.