March 1, 2015

Fortenberry says Congress can do little in wake of Keystone XL veto

Pipeline2Congressman Jeff Fortenberry says Congress has little recourse in wake of President Barack Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL bill.

President Obama vetoed the bill approved by Congress, stating it circumvented the existing process for dealing with TransCanada’s request for a presidential permit to cross the northern border to build the $8 billion oil pipeline from western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska.

Fortenberry says Congress is powerless to overturn the veto.

“Don’t think there are the votes in the Senate to overcome the veto, so I guess the oil continues to move by rail and create additional hazards from that perspective,” Fortenberry tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

The fate of Keystone XL reverts back to that existing process. The Obama Administration continues to review TransCanada’s application. The State Department has conducted an environmental review. It has received input from other federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency.

Once its review is completed, the State Department will make a recommendation to President Obama, who has the final say.

Fortenberry says State Department analysis, away from the political theatre Keystone XL has created, could convince the president to approve the project.

“It could be that after those final assessments are done, again, more objective analysis says no, all the environmental concerns are reasonably satisfied and it would put more pressure on the president to go forward with this, but I simply don’t have the answer,” Fortenberry says.

Fortenberry says he’s disappointed the president vetoed the Keystone bill. Fortenberry says Keystone will create jobs, but more importantly would lead the country toward more reliance on North American oil and less on that from the Middle East.

Celebrations by some Nebraskans over Keystone XL bill’s veto

PipelineNebraska environmentalists are applauding Tuesday’s veto by President Obama of the bill that would have authorized construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

BOLD Nebraska’s energy director, Ben Gotschall, says the veto wasn’t a surprise, but it was welcome.

“The White House had indicated several times that they were going to veto the bill, the president’s remarks in the State of the Union and at other times backed that up,” Gotschall says. “It was not an unexpected move but we are thrilled none the less and we’re going to be celebrating today.”

Gotschall says they believe there were several reasons the president vetoed the bill, including the pipeline’s possible impacts on the climate, environmental concerns, and what he calls “misleading” jobs information.

“The jobs claims have been found to be overinflated and the impact on gas prices was also shown to be false,” Gotschall says. “We’ve seen a lowering of gas prices here recently in the past few months and it wasn’t because the pipeline was being built.”

Gotschall says he doesn’t think there are enough votes in Congress to override the veto and the $8-billion-dollar project may finally be at an end.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


AG office sees Republican River order as victory for Nebraska (AUDIO)

The Republican River

The Republican River

The United States Supreme Court has ordered Nebraska to pay Kansas $5.5 million to settle a dispute over use of the Republican River.

Nebraska officials call it a victory.

“I think overall the office of the Attorney General is very pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision,” Justin Lavene, chief of the Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources Bureau with the Attorney General’s office.

Lavene says there is much to like in the Supreme Court order.

Though the Supreme Court has awarded Kansas $5.5 million that is much lower than the initial request of $80 million sought by Kansas.

Kansas had asked the court to shut down groundwater irrigation wells covering 300,000 acres in Nebraska. The court declined the request. Lavene credits the work of the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Districts in writing new rules and regulations that reduced the use of water from the Republican River, which made the request unnecessary.

The biggest benefit for Nebraska is the adoption of new accounting procedures, the procedures that determine how much water is being allocated and to which state.

Under the 1943 compact, Nebraska receives 49% of the water; Kansas 40%; and Colorado 11%. Nebraska argued that water flowing from the Platte River had been calculated in the allocation, distorting the calculations. The court agreed with a Special Master in the case who recommended the North Platte flow be excluded.

The most positive aspect of the ruling, according to Lavene, is that the ruling removes uncertainty for Nebraska farmers using water from the Republican River to irrigate their crops.

“And so, by having this decision and finalizing the aspect of the accounting change, we’ll know where we’re at with regard to our obligations to the state of Kansas going forward which ultimately will give more certainty to the users in the basin.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

President Obama spikes Keystone XL bill

Keystone XL RoutePresident Barack Obama has fulfilled his promise and vetoed legislation authorizing construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The president retains his authority to approve or reject an application by TransCanada to cross the border between Canada and the United States to build the pipeline from western Canadian oil sands fields to Steele City, Nebraska. The Obama Administration has stated its review of the application has not been completed.

The State Department has released an environmental review of the project and has received input from various agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency. It has yet to issue its final report to the president.

TransCanada proposes building the $8 billion pipeline to carry up to 800,000 barrels of oil produced from the oil sands of Alberta to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas. The southern portion of Keystone XL, from Cushing, OK to the Gulf Coast is operating. The northern portion would connect Keystone XL with the existing Keystone pipeline that runs from Steele City to Cushing.

Nebraska loses to Kansas in Republican River dispute

Nebraska has been ordered to pay Kansas $5.5 million to settle a lingering dispute over the use of water from the Republican River.

While the United States Supreme Court sided with Kansas in the main portion of the legal wrangling between the two states concerning the Republican River, it did side with Nebraska in its argument that there needs to be a new formula to measure use of the Republican River.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion in the case. In it, Kagan stated the court adopted the recommendations of an independent expert appointed to review the differences between Kansas and Nebraska.

The 1943 compact governing use of the Republican River allocates 49% of the water to Nebraska, 40% to Kansas, and 11% to Colorado.

Kansas filed a lawsuit against Nebraska, complaining that Nebraska farmers siphoned off too much water from the Republican River to irrigate their crops in 2005 and 2006, leaving less for Kansas farmers. The Republican River begins in Colorado, runs through Nebraska, and into Kansas.

Six justices agreed on the financial settlement to the lawsuit. Five agreed that the formula needs to change.