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Pipeline gives more than $430K to fix road

Holub said, ‘Marion County has been lied to’

Managing editor

It was apparent that TransCanada, the company installing an oil pipeline through Marion County, was ready to deal Friday with the county commission to restore county roads.

Remington Road, between 290th Road and U.S. 56, was already in disrepair when the project began in May but repeat pipeline truck traffic caused the road to further disintegrate.

When the project began, TransCanada agreed to return county roads and bridges to their original conditions when the pipeline construction was completed. Road repair reimbursement was divided into segments. The first payment from TransCanada officials was to pay for the repair of Remington Road, Pilsen south to the county line and from Pilsen north to the county line.

Engineering firm Kirkham Michael of Wichita had compiled a cost estimate of $401,000 for filling potholes and resurfacing the nine-mile stretch of Remington Road from Pilsen north to the county line, more specifically to U.S. 56. That information was given to TransCanada officials before Friday’s commission meeting for review.

At Friday’s meeting, the county presented a cost estimate of $90,560 to patch Remington Road before winter weather hits.

With authority to negotiate, Bill Smock, Tommy Darnell, and Jim Prescott of TransCanada came to the meeting prepared to make a deal.

County road supervisor Jim Herzet said something had to be done now to repair Remington Road from U.S. 56 to 290th Road.

Commissioner Dan Holub agreed, specifically mentioning his concern about additional traffic in the coming weeks for the annual pilgrimage to Father Emil Kapaun Memorial at Pilsen.

“We realize we damaged the road,” Smock said, “but the road wasn’t perfect.”

Prescott said the company was willing to give the county nearly $375,000 Friday for road repair with the balance of the $401,000 — $26,620 — earmarked for community investment.

Funds for temporary patching could come out of the $375,000, Darnell said.

Engineers verified that it would be nearly impossible to resurface the road before winter weather.

“The company has made a valiant effort in offering a settlement today,” Commission Chairman Randy Dallke said.

He said the commission would accept TransCanada’s initial offer but made a counteroffer, asking the pipeline company to give the county one-third of the $90,560 needed to patch the road in the coming weeks.

Holub said the county already had put in time and effort to keep the road passable while the pipeline project was being completed.

The pipeline officials said they would have to obtain approval from their superiors to authorize an additional payment, which could take an additional three weeks to resolve.

With that said, Smock excused himself from the meeting with his cell phone in hand. Within a few minutes, he returned to the meeting and said he could accept the counteroffer and was authorized to pay an additional $30,000 to the county.

The commission accepted the offers, releasing TransCanada and Keystone Pipeline from any responsibility in this case.

After TransCanada officials left the meeting, Herzet reported that contractor APAC Shears of Kansas could begin Monday repairing Remington Road.

Exemption issue

Holub continues to seek the truth regarding circumstances surrounding the state authorizing an exemption to the pipeline company, even though it does not meet the requirements.

With state Rep. J. Robert Brookens in attendance, Holub pointed out that Brookens did not cause this issue.

According to state legislators, the pipeline would not have come through Kansas had there not been an exemption. However, Holub contends that the pipeline company’s intent from the beginning was to come through Kansas.

Of all the states the pipeline will cross — from Canada to Oklahoma — Kansas is the only state offering a tax exemption to the company. No other state offered an exemption or felt compelled to do so to keep the pipeline route in their state.

Holub also alleged that pipeline officials never had any intention of distributing the raw slurry to Kansas refineries. Making the product available to local refineries is a requirement by state statute to grant the exemption.

Holub cited a news article in the May 2, 2009, edition of the Marion County Record in which Prescott was quoted saying, “All of the oil will be delivered to Cushing, Okla. Most refineries in Kansas have their own pipeline route to Cushing.”

Prescott continued in the 2009 article that the refinery in Cushing is considered a “hub” with storage facilities to accommodate the massive transporting.

More recently, Holub said Prescott indicated TransCanada was not in the position to ask for an exemption but if offered, the foreign company would take it.

Holub believes the pipeline route was chosen in early 2005, long before the Senate approved the exemption in April 2006, and that the exemption was passed in the 11th hour because it was tacked on to another bill that most legislators wanted to pass.

“There’s another pipeline coming through the county,” Holub said. “I’m assuming it is natural gas. We’ll go through the same ordeal again.”

Holub continued that of the 165 state legislators, Brookens was the only one willing to talk to him about the issue.

“Frankly, Marion County has been lied to. Every time we brought up a point, there was a new story,” Holub said.

Another point of contention for Holub is the amount he believes it is going to cost the state to exempt this pipeline through Kansas. According to Holub, a separate office will have to be created by the Department of Commerce that will cost approximately $260,000 per year.

Holub said some legislators told representatives of the six counties affected by the pipeline project and Kansas Association of Counties should have been involved in the process before the bill was presented to the Senate but most didn’t know about it until it was too late.

“I am done talking. We have been misrepresented,” Holub said. “I want the commission to file an injunction against the Senate bill.”

Holub also wanted county attorney Susan Robson to check with the Secretary of State regarding illegal campaign contributions from the Canada pipeline company because the Nebraska governor and attorney general were accused of accepting illegal payments from TransCanada. The payments have since been returned to the foreign company, Holub said.

Butler County Commission had asked the pipeline company to make a voluntary payment of approximately $529,000 each year to coincide with the state tax abatement to “offset taxpayers for expenses related to pipeline operations in Butler County.”

The response from the company’s vice president, whose name was unreadable on the letter, was TransCanada was making nearly a $1 billion investment in Kansas to build the Keystone Pipeline system and declined the request for voluntary payments.

Last modified Nov. 4, 2010

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