By Kietryn Zychal
Retired rancher Randy Thompson has become the face of the fight against TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. His image appears on banners and cardboard cutouts around the city of Lincoln. “Stand with Randy” is a popular slogan for the pipeline fighters. As one of three taxpayers suing the state of Nebraska over LB 1161, the 2012 bill that may—or may not—determine how pipelines are sited in Nebraska, Thompson stands to lose nothing personally if Keystone XL goes in the ground. The pipeline was rerouted away from his family’s farm on an island in the middle of the Platte River in Merrick County. So, why is he suing the state?
“People should be outraged by what the legislature did. They threw us under the bus,” he said during an interview at his home in Martell, southwest of Lincoln.
In the fall of 2007 Thompson received his first call from TransCanada. “We were totally unaware that there was any type of pipeline project,” he said. He was also unaware that a 1963 Nebraska law, 57-1101, granted oil pipelines the power of eminent domain, even companies owned by foreign corporations. Thompson wrote a letter to Gov. Heineman and received a form letter in return that did not answer any of his questions. “It was just a brochure about the pipeline,” he said. A subsequent letter to the attorney general complaining about his treatment by TransCanada did not receive a response.
TransCanada eventually sent Thompson a letter in 2010 with an easement agreement offering him a one-time payment of $18,900 for a perpetual right of way across 80 acres of his land. They directed him to sign in 30 days or they would initiate condemnation proceedings in court, an option for those who have eminent domain powers. At the time, TransCanada did not even have a permit to build the pipeline.