State lawmakers re-gather at the Capitol in Lincoln to consider whether they can do anything to change the route of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood of Norfolk hadn’t favored calling a special session to deal with oil pipeline regulations, but has nonetheless been busy preparing for the special session called by Governor Heineman.
“I’m not going to second guess the reasons the governor has for calling us into special session,” Flood tells Nebraska Radio Network in an interview.
Flood says he still has concerns about the difficulty in crafting legislation that will force TransCanada to move the Keystone XL pipeline away from the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer. Flood says preliminary legislation must be improved to meet those concerns.
“Well, I’ve committed to keeping an open mind,” Flood says. “Obviously, I shared with the members of the legislature what I felt the big legal challenges are and those challenges remain.”
Flood’s primary concern centers on the Commerce Clause. Flood says no legislation approved can unduly burden interstate commerce. The Speaker notes that even if the legislature approves a bill the governor signs, it could take at least eight months for state government to promulgate the rules and regulations to enforce the law. That, he says, could be construed as placing an undue burden on the pipeline’s construction.
TransCanada proposes building the $7 billion oil pipeline from the tar sands of western Canada to refineries at the Gulf Coast in Texas. The 1,700 mile pipeline will travel through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
Governor Dave Heineman, who called the legislature into special session, says he doesn’t object to the pipeline, but objects to its proposed route. His efforts to persuade TransCanada to move the route away from the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer have proven unsuccessful.
Flood says he understands the issue has become emotional. In his memo written to legislators, Flood wrote, “We, as legislators, must make decisions grounded in reality and rooted in the law.” He also urged lawmakers to think about the long-term ramifications of enacting such legislation.
Flood says the special legislative session might well begin slowly. He expects Sen. Annette Dubas to file a bill revised from the one she floated to fellow senators earlier. He also expects other bills to be filed. He expects the special session to last three weeks.