Meet the Press   |  April 06, 2014

Meeting America: Keystone a Big Issue Dividing a Small Town

For MTP’s Meeting America series, NBC News' Kevin Tibbles travels to Steele City, Nebraska where the Keystone XL Pipeline is top of mind for residents of the small midwestern town.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> welcome back. this week the u.n. issued an unprecedented warning about climate change . arguing extreme weather events will become even more common. the president's inability to get significant legislation combating climate change through congress makes his decision about the controversial keystone xl pipeline all the more politically difficult. so we wanted to get out of washington to meet some people directly affected by all of this. in today's "meeting america," kevin tibbles visited a small midwestern town whose future will be shaped by the president's decision.

>> a tiny spec of a nebraska town, steele city has some stories to tell. covered wagons made tracks, headed west. wild bill hickcock gunned down his first man not far from here, shot him in the back they say. these days, more often than not, things roll on by without a second thought. and in the weather-worn facades and store fronts, steele city shows its age.

>> we used to have two grocery stores , a hardware store , livery barn, lumber yard , creamery, stockyards, basically dwindled away.

>> bill she willy runs the post office , is the town's maintenance man, and also the mayor. he won with 21 votes. not bad really. folksing are few here.

>> 50. give or take one or two.

>> sign out front says 84 people live here.

>> but that's an owed sign.

>> no one's ever struck oil in steele city , but an awful lot of it sure passes through. four pipelines already converge on the outskirts. and a fifth the proposed keystone xl would bring canadian crude south en route to the u.s. refineries.

>> one since came through and built have been good business. like as far as calling in ahead of time saying i have four days lunches. can you have them ready at 12:10 . it's been a good business having them come through.

>> the salty dog is the only place in town to get a bite and really the only place in town. margot d'angelo lovingly serves up the chow.

>> if i blow this one, i did it on purpose. oh.

>> oh. yea.

>> i scratched.

>> i won.

>> and she's all for the pipeline.

>> it does boost the economy for everyone around here. me, my employees, that might mean difference in an employee getting a new car. might mean a new air conditioning system for the tavern or i might be able to have a vacation.

>> but there is considerable opposition on the other side. some maintain abany pipeline spill would deb state nebraska 's environment. others say americans need to wean themselves from fossil fuels .

>> for most nebraskians, the vice president is a very secondary issue.

>> and there's the question of money.

>> we have 1.million people in nebraska . we have 50 people in steele city .

>> so you do the math.

>> dave be is a lawyer fighting keystone on behalf of farmers who want a better compensation package.

>> a good neighbor would not say to you, you take this deal or you're out.

>> you're suggesting a little bit of bullying has gone on.

>> and it has.

>> the ones that's fighting this, i think it's more political than anything.

>> do you ever worry in a couple of years, steele city may be no more.

>> oh, yeah, i am.

>> reporter: it is the future that fuels the uncertainty in this part of the country. there's plenty of past to go around.

>> black smithing was a way of life .

>> we can get that white hot .

>> reporter: so as local men breathe new life into this old stone building , keeping their craft alive, they look ahead.

>> i welcome the future. i have to. if you don't, the country's going to go backwards but don't forget your past.

>> reporter: for "meet the press," kevin tibbles.