Gov. Dave Heineman said today the state will proceed with the process of finding an alternative route for the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska.
Heineman said the state will proceed, despite a lawsuit filed by three landowners challenging the constitutionality of the law that authorizes the process. The lawsuit contends the law approved by the legislature this year and signed into law by the governor violates the state constitution. The law, LB 1161, sought to revise legislation approved during a special session last year sets out regulations to follow for any company proposing an oil pipeline in the state.
Heineman reacted to the lawsuit during a news conference in Lincoln. In answer to a reporter’s question, Heineman said he hasn’t reviewed the lawsuit and will leave the state defense up to the attorney general. But Heineman did say he’s pleased with the process on Keystone.
“We’ve had four informational meetings in north-central Nebraska. We’ve received significant and good input from citizens,” Heineman stated. “The Department of Environmental Quality will now work with TransCanada, take those four or five suggested routes, narrow it down to one preferred alternative and we’ll do a supplemental, environmental impact statement on that route.”
The lawsuit didn’t come as a surprise, according to Heineman.
“Those who are opposed to any pipeline and these individuals are, they’re going to pursue every option available to them and that’s their right to do that,” Heineman said.
Heineman said he supports the Keystone XL pipeline going through Nebraska, but added that the oil pipeline must meet two conditions before it wins state approval. It must avoid the Sand Hills. It must conform to all state and federal environmental requirements.
Stopping the process while the courts address the claims contained in the lawsuit won’t be contemplated, according to Heineman.
“If we stopped every process every time we got sued, we’d never get anything done in state government,” Heineman stated.
Heineman added that Nebraska has been working with the Department of State on a memo of understanding to ultimately approve the pipeline.
The Unicameral, during the regular session this year, approved LB 1161, a revision of oil pipeline regulation legislation approved in the special session last year. During the special session, TransCanada agreed to re-route the Keystone XL pipeline around the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills. President Obama this year, though, denied TransCanada’s permit to bring the pipeline into the country from western Canada, throwing doubt on whether the legislation approved last year remain valid. TransCanada has reapplied.
The company hopes to build a 1,700 mile oil pipeline from western Canada to refineries at the Gulf of Mexico in Texas.
AUDIO: Gov. Heineman reacts to lawsuit filed against LB 1161, oil pipeline regulations. [:45]