September 17, 2014

Stalled Keystone XL pipeline process gets new life

The stalled effort to find an alternative route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline in Nebraska might be re-started, soon.

The Unicameral has approved LB 1161e on a 44-to-5 vote, revising oil pipeline legislation approved during the special legislative session last year. The bill combines the two bills approved in the special session and paves the way for the work to find an alternative route that ended abruptly when President Obama denied TransCanada’s presidential permit to cross the Canadian-American border. The president has said TransCanada can reapply.

Sen. Chris Langemeier of Schuyler, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, says the legislature has updated bills approved in the special session to address the changes in Washington.

“But, the end result is TransCanada, now with the E-clause, can go apply for a potential route in Nebraska as soon as the governor signs it, so sometime next week,” according to Langemeier.

The bill contained an emergency clause, which makes it law upon the signature of the governor. It establishes a state process for the approval of oil pipelines in Nebraska.

TransCanada proposes building a 1,700 miles oil pipeline from western Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast in Texas. The cost of the project totals $7 billion. It must receive a presidential permit since it crosses the border. The project became embroiled in controversy last year when property owners in Nebraska raised objections to the company’s proposed route through the Sand Hills. A deal brokered during the special session cleared the way for a new route through Nebraska.

Langemeier says the legislation approved this session makes two significant changes to legislation approved last year. LB 1161e requires TransCanada to pay the projected $2 million price tag for the new environmental impact study. The state had agreed to pay for the study last year. The legislation also limits TransCanada’s eminent domain authority for building the pipeline through Nebraska to two years.