LINCOLN, Neb. —
TransCanada company officials have met with all county commissions along the pipeline's proposed route. TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said the company has promised to build the $7 billion pipeline to rigorous safety standards and carry $200 million in insurance to cover any cleanup costs.
"We work very hard to be seen as a good neighbor and to answer the questions that landowners, regulators or elected officials may have," Howard said.
The company says that pipeline opponents are resorting to delaying tactics after repeatedly failing to stop the project.
For the officials in rural, sparely populated counties, the pipeline presents a difficult balancing act between landowners' concerns about their private property rights and the potential exposure to company lawsuits.
"You hope to make the right decisions, to support what your constituents are thinking," said Holt County Commissioner William Tielke. "But we still have to follow the rules of the federal government."
Obama, who had held up approval during the fight over the original route, said last week the project from Canada to Texas should be approved if it doesn't worsen carbon pollution.
Farmer Jim Carlson, whose land near Osceola, Neb., is on the proposed pipeline route, said it makes sense for local officials to get involved.
"County officials have a responsibility to make sure the public is protected from anything that might happen," Carlson said.
Larry Dix, executive director of the Nebraska Association of County Officials, said local authorities could order a review before a pipeline could run under a county road, or for heavy trucks and machinery to cross bridges. But a blanket attempt to deny access would almost certainly trigger a lawsuit that counties would lose, he said.
That's not stopping opponents from trying, and many county officials seem to be sympathetic. Opponents argue that local opinion could affect Obama's decision.