October 21, 2014

TransCanada denies Energy East is alternative to Keystone XL

A TransCanada executive denies an ambitious new project by the company is being undertaken as an alternative to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Approval of Keystone XL has been delayed for years. TransCanada now awaits a decision on its route through Nebraska from the state Supreme Court.

Vice President for the Keystone Pipeline Project, Corey Goulet, says the proposed 3,000 mile oil pipeline, dubbed Energy East, that would span Canada is not a replacement for Keystone XL.

“We’ve received commitments from different customers to ship on each of these pipelines,” Goulet tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

Some have suggested that TransCanada proposed the cross-Canadian pipeline after being rebuffed for years by the United States in building the northern portion of Keystone XL.

Goulet says if there is an alternative to transporting oil through Keystone XL, Energy East isn’t it.

“Well, certainly, we’ve seen one of the alternatives to Keystone and that’s that our customers, the oil producers, are shipping more crude by rail,” according to Goulet. “That’s increased dramatically, both in Canada as well in the U.S., the last couple of years as everyone knows.”

Goulet says oil will be shipped, one way or another; both crude from oil sands in western Canada and from the Bakken oil fields in the Dakotas. He says the most efficient, least disruptive, and most environmentally friendly way to ship it is through pipelines.

And Goulet claims the oil sands of western Canada won’t go away even if Keystone XL never receives approval.

“Certainly that oil will be produced and the producers will continue to develop their projects that they have for the oil sands and they will find a way to get that product to market.”



Fate of health care law major issue in US Senate campaign (AUDIO)

Democrat Dave Domina

Democrat Dave Domina

Many issues define the United States Senate race, but one issue discloses deep division between the two political party candidates.

The federal health insurance law, called Obamacare by most, officially the Affordable Care Act, is an issue in many Senate races across the country.

Its fate is front and center in Nebraska.

Democrat Dave Domina rejects any suggestion that it will be repealed.

“Oh no, absolutely can’t be repealed,” Domina tells Nebraska Radio Network. “And the problems I have with it are simply the kinds of things you would expect to have to repair in a statute this big.”

Domina says anyone would expect modifications to be made to a statute as large as the Affordable Care Act. One change Domina advocates is repealing the section that forces Americans to get rid of their current health insurance policies in order to buy policies that conform to the ACA.

Republican Ben Sasse

Republican Ben Sasse

Republican Ben Sasse has built much of his campaign on criticism of the law and an insistence that it must be repealed.

Sasse tells Nebraska Radio Network he wants to be precise in his answer about whether the ACA can be repealed.

“We’re not going to see Obamacare repealed before the next presidential election, but by the end of that presidential election in 2016, the country will be heading in one of two ways: toward actual health care reform or toward a more European-style, centralized health care system,” Sasse tells us.

Sasse says Domina wants more Washington power while he wants more patient, doctor, and nurse power.

Independents Jim Jenkins and Todd Watson are also running for Senate.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:50]

No need for subpoena, Gov. Heineman to testify willingly (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman answers questions at a briefing with reporters

Gov. Dave Heineman answers questions at a briefing with reporters

Gov. Dave Heineman said today he will testify before the special legislative committee investigating the prison sentence miscalculation scandal.

The governor’s remarks came hours after the Department of Correctional Services Special Investigating Committee voted unanimously to subpoena the governor to testify before the committee October 29th.

The special legislative committee first formed to investigate why Nikko Jenkins was released from prison rather than civilly committed. Jenkins killed four in Omaha upon his released last year.

It since has followed up reports first published by the Omaha World-Herald that Corrections officials released hundreds of inmates prematurely, because it ignored two state Supreme Court rulings.

During a meeting with reporters at his Capitol office, Gov. Heineman denied he attended a meeting in which Corrections Director Mike Kenney created a program to allow eight inmates released early to serve the remainder of their sentences at home rather than behind bars. A July 31st memo by former Corrections General Counsel George Green indicates the governor was at the meeting when Kenney proposed the alternative sentencing program.

“No, I’ve never been in a meeting regarding that and Director Kenney indicated this was something he created, he invented,” Heineman told reporters.

The Corrections Director pushed forward with the program, though attorneys with the department questioned its legality.

Heineman said he never considered invoking executive privilege against the subpoena issued by the legislative committee. He suggested he might request the committee withdraw the subpoena and allow him to come to the hearing voluntarily.

“But I’m going to be there one way or another on October 29th, because I look forward to these discussions that we need to have on these issues,” Heineman said.

Heineman also rejects suggestions he pushed for Corrections to release prisoners early to ease prison overcrowding.

“Absolutely not,” Heineman said. “I’ve always said they’re two separate issues. The bad guys need to be in prison no matter what.”

The Department of Correctional Services ignored two state Supreme Court rulings, releasing 200 inmates early and setting early release dates for 550 others. The governor’s office and Corrections officials reported 306 inmates were released prematurely by the department. Many inmates received credit for time served in the community without incident.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]

Legislative committee to subpoena Gov. Heineman in prison probe

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

A special legislative committee looking into the miscalculation of prison sentences has voted to subpoena Gov. Dave Heineman to testify before the committee October 29th.

The committee is following up reports first published by the Omaha World-Herald that reveal prison officials miscalculated the sentences of hundreds of prison inmates, leading to their premature release from incarceration. The World-Herald reported the Department of Correctional Services ignored two state Supreme Court rulings, releasing 200 inmates early and setting early release dates for 550 others.

Gov. Heineman and Corrections officials reported 306 inmates were released prematurely by the department. Many inmates received credit for time served in the community without incident.

The investigation by the legislature took a turn Friday when state Corrections Director Mike Kenney acknowledged he allowed eight prisoners to remain outside prison walls though his legal staff warned against the action.

Gov. Heineman released a written statement though his office.

“I look forward to the opportunity to answer any questions and clear up any miscommunications. The Department of Correctional Services, specifically former legal counsel George Green, made a series of significant mistakes and created a huge mess. Since June, Attorney General Bruning and I have been working diligently and thoughtfully with the new leadership at the Department to fix the problems.”


Former NDEQ Director raises questions about “Waters of US” proposal (AUDIO)

A former director of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality says the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to fix something that isn’t broken in its controversial proposal to expand the Clean Water Act.

Former NDEQ Director Mike Linder has analyzed the EPA move to update the Clean Water Act, called “Waters of the United States” on behalf of Common Sense Nebraska, a group opposed to the change.

“So, the first part of my summary is they’re trying to fix the 404, the federal program, and I think they’ve broadened the jurisdiction and I don’t think they’ve really fixed it very well,” Linder tells reporters on a conference call.

Section 404 covers the wetlands permit program operated by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

Linder, an attorney with Koley Jessen of Omaha, says currently the Corps determines on a case-by-case basis which rivers, streams, creeks, and ponds are covered by the Clean Water Act and which are exempt from regulation. He says the EPA effort to define those bodies of water is problematic.

The change also would affect programs traditionally overseen by the states.

Linder says the change could encroach on those state-run programs that have operated under a cooperative federalism since the Clean Water Act became law in the early 1970s. In Nebraska, the state works with farmers and livestock producers on compliance.

“If I were a producer I would be a little bit confused as to how this would impact my operation,” Linder says. “And if I had had an exemption or other decision by the state agency that now could be changed by this definition, I would want to have that clarification made.”

Linder speculates the change could also extend EPA’s regulator power to groundwater, which hasn’t been subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. The EPA has stated it does not have jurisdiction over groundwater, but Linder says some definitions need to be revised to clearly indicate that.

Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Office of Water with the EPA, Ken Kopocis, denied the proposed changes would extend the EPA’s reach onto the farm.

“We believe that the proposed rule would cover fewer waters than what the current rule covers. So, we do not believe that we’re expanding jurisdiction,” Kopocis told Nebraska Radio Network in a telephone interview from this Washington, D.C. office in August.

Linder, responding to a question about Kopocis’ statement, says he couldn’t see how the proposed expansion would not broaden the reach of the EPA.

Linder says he would prefer EPA withdraw the proposal and work to better enforce current law.

“So, I don’t know, they’re trying to fix something that’s not broken with the other programs.”

EPA is accepting public comment on the proposed rule through November14th.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau is encouraging comments opposed to the rule change be posted on ditchtherule.fb.org.

PDF of Linder analysis of EPA proposal

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]