From the Legislature
Newsletter November 18, 2011
When the third week of the special session began November 14th, one pipeline bill was advanced by the Natural Resources Committee – LB 4. It was clear from early discussion as well as from the number of amendments that had been introduced, debate was going to be contentious. Then came the unexpected announcement from Speaker Mike Flood that TransCanada had voluntarily agreed to reroute the pipeline away from the Nebraska Sand Hills.
Along with his surprising announcement, Speaker Flood also introduced an amendment to LB 4 which strikes the bill’s original language and replaces it with a process that allows Nebraska to conduct and issue its own Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the new pipeline route.
The state will assume the $2 million cost of the EIS to insure that an independent and unbiased report will be provided on the new portion of the pipeline route through Nebraska. The U.S. Department of State agreed that Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality would have the authority to work with federal officials on the study under a Memorandum of Understanding that will delineate the requirements for conducting and issuing the EIS on the new pipeline route.
Passage of LB 4 will keep the Keystone XL pipeline out of the Sand Hills. There’s no proposed new route yet but as a state, Nebraska will be actively involved in route selection. The Governor is also required to approve the project.
Speaker Flood also asked the Natural Resources Committee to advance LB 1, Senator Dubas’s Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act which gives siting authority for oil pipelines to the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC). As part of TransCanada’s agreement to voluntarily reroute their pipeline away from the Sand Hills, LB 1 won’t apply to the Keystone XL pipeline.
After resolving minor language issues, LB 1 advanced to final reading on November 17. In its final version, LB 1 provides siting authority for future oil pipelines, prevents a company from using eminent domain to acquire easements until the state permit has been granted, and allows the PSC to consider the lawful protection of Nebraska’s natural resources in determining the location of major oil pipeline routes within Nebraska.
The expected passage of LB 1 reaffirms that Nebraska has the authority as a sovereign state to protect its land and natural resources for economic and aesthetic purposes for the benefit of its residents and future generations by regulation through approval or disapproval of major oil pipeline siting and the location of routes.
Ultimately, the route of the Keystone XL pipeline may still go through a portion of Legislative District 41. To that end, there are a few cautionary notes. I’ve already heard from local public power districts wondering if a new or an additional pumping station will be located in their area. Landowners may soon be contacted by TransCanada regarding easements along the new route. I strongly advise landowners to seek legal advice to help them negotiate a favorable contract that is in their best interests. It’s also important to keep in mind that eminent domain limitations contained in LB 1 don’t apply to easements for the new portion of the Keystone XL route.
Citizen input made the biggest difference in this series of events. Many Nebraskans sent letters, made phone calls and sent e-mails to state senators, the U.S. Department of State and the President. People took the time to attend, testify and participate in the public hearings. It’s clear that the public input had an impact on the U.S. Department of State’s decision to postpone a decision on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline permit application until 2013.
I’m proud of the way Nebraskans participated in the democratic process. The Legislature listened to their voices and is poised to enact legislation that gives Nebraskans a say in how and where future oil pipelines will traverse our state.
I’m also fully aware that the Legislature’s actions haven’t won approval from everyone. Some would like to see all pipelines prohibited. Some support pipelines no matter where they’re built. Two important points to keep in mind: TransCanada is rerouting this pipeline out of the Sand Hills, and with the expected two pieces of legislation in place, Nebraska is in a much better strategic position to deal with future pipelines.
If you have questions regarding this newsletter, legislation or state issues, please call my legislative office at (402) 471-2631. There is Voicemail on my phone so if you get the recording, please leave a message and I’ll get back to you. You may also write to me c/o P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or email me at: email@example.com. If you write or email, please include your full name and mailing address.