A rarely used Board of Adjustment will take testimony Thursday on whether to overturn the denial of a construction permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline across Holt County. A public hearing will begin at 4 p.m. at the Community Center in O’Neill.
Back in February, the Holt County Board of Supervisors denied a construction permit for the pipeline. That upheld a recommendation by the county’s zoning board to deny the permit to TC Energy, formerly TransCanada, until the pipeline developer “gains access into all lands” on the route either by voluntary agreements or eminent domain, and until the firm can identify all private drainage tiles in fields it crosses.
TC Energy appealed the decision, which required Holt County to appoint members to its Board of Adjustment. That is a five-member panel that decides disputes over zoning issues; it hadn’t been activated for 25 years.
That, plus the advent of COVID-19 and the resignation of one new board member because of coronavirus concerns, delayed the appeal hearing for several months, according to Holt County Clerk Cathy Pavel.
TC Energy did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment Wednesday. But Jane Kleeb, who founded the pipeline opposition group Bold Nebraska, questioned why Holt County was seeking to resolve the matter amid a pandemic and just before the Nov. 3 election. If Joe Biden is elected, he has pledged to block construction of the Keystone XL, which Kleeb said would render moot any decision made by the Holt County Board of Adjustment.
She added that landowners who object to the pipeline crossing their farms or ranches will not “move an inch” until all other hurdles are crossed by the pipeline, which includes the election results and the awarding of a waterbody crossing permit by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.