April 23, 2014

Gov. Heineman sees no need to delay Keystone XL decision (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman says he’s very disappointed by the latest delay on a decision about the Keystone XL oil pipeline and rejects the suggestion that legal issues in Nebraska should prevent the State Department from moving forward.

Heineman says there just doesn’t need to be any more delays.

“It’s time for a yes or no decision on the Keystone pipeline,” Heineman tells Nebraska Radio Network in an interview.

Yet, the State Department has delayed again its decision on the route, claiming legal issues in Nebraska need to be resolved first.

The latest delay on Keystone seemingly contradicts President Barack Obama’s assurance in late February that a decision on Keystone would be make in a couple of months. Obama reportedly made the remark during a meeting with governors after Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal suggested the president should grant TransCanada’s presidential permit. [Read earlier story]

Heineman was in attendance and reported that Obama told the governors he would be making a decision on Keystone in the next couple of months, a decision that would make some happy and some unhappy. The president declined to elaborate.

Heineman says the president knew the lawsuit had been filed in Nebraska when he spoke with the governors.

“Well, the fact of the matter is when the president told all the governors and myself (about the timeframe) he knew exactly what was going on in Nebraska, that lawsuit was going on, and he said he was going to make a decision and now he’s not and I wish he would explain why,” Heineman says.

TransCanada has applied for a presidential permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline from western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. It would connect with the southern portion of the pipeline, which is operating from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas.

The northern portion of Keystone XL is estimated to cost $5.4 billion. It would carry 830,000 barrels of oil sands crude from Canada to the refineries.

The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of LB 1161, passed in 2012 by the Unicameral, upon which Heineman based his decision to approve the Keystone XL route through Nebraska.

Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled it unconstitutional, stating the Nebraska Constitution gives exclusive regulatory control over pipeline companies, such as TransCanada, to the Nebraska Public Service Commission and that the Unicameral could not transfer that power to the governor.

Attorney General Jon Bruning immediately filed an appeal of the ruling.

The lawsuit is expected to be decided by the Nebraska Supreme Court either late this year or early next year.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:40]

Law mandating autism coverage signed into law (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman addresses news conference with Vicki and Jacob Depenbusch

Gov. Dave Heineman addresses news conference with Vicki and Jacob Depenbusch

A bill signing ceremony at the Capitol became emotional as families of autistic children celebrated a late-legislative session victory.

Gov. Dave Heineman has signed into law LB 254, which requires health insurance policies to cover autism therapy.

Colleen Jankovich of Omaha, the mother of an autistic son, stated she’s pleased the bill won approval in the last days of the legislative session.

“I was not sure it was going to pass with all the stuff that went on,” Jankovich said, growing emotional as she addressed the signing ceremony. “But I’m so grateful to everyone for everything they’ve done, because it means there’s a future in our state for our children and that’s all that matters.”

Vicki Depenbusch of Lincoln says therapy has been a great help to her autistic son, Jacob.

“When a small child has a truck and they roll it; that’s not what our son would do. He’d flip it over and just spin the wheels; line up things. So, he had to be taught how to play.”

Depenbusch says the public schools have been instrumental in helping autistic children become more acclimated socially.

Jacob met Gov. Heineman during his parent teacher conference in 2010. They have developed a friendship and Jacob calls himself the “Governor’s Buddy.” Jacob attended the signing ceremony with his mother and stood next to Heineman.

The law mandates insurance policies provide 25 hours of therapy per week, such as applied behavior analysis. Some policies are exempt due to federal law.

Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln sponsored LB 254 and acknowledged during the news conference he nearly gave up on the bill during the legislative session.

“This therapy opens doors and what it does for children is it allows them to interact with the world in a way that they wouldn’t have but for this therapy,” according to Coash.

Autism therapy can cost an average of $50,000 a year, according to the advocacy group Autism Speaks.

AUDIO:  Gov. Dave Heineman holds news conference to sign LB 254. [12 min.]

It will take a very long time to resolve Keystone XL legal issues (AUDIO)

If State Department officials want to wait until Nebraska legal issues are resolved to make a recommendation on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, they will be waiting quite a long time.

A lawsuit filed by landowners challenges the constitutionality of a 2012 law that gave Gov. Dave Heineman the authority to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline route through Nebraska.

Attorney Dave Domina, a Democratic candidate for US Senate, represents the landowners.

“There are several constitutional issues that will be presented to the Supreme Court. They all come down to this: was the procedure used by the governor to approve the route legal or illegal?”

The lawsuit challenges the 2012 law approved by the legislature that gives the governor the authority to approve pipeline routes through the state. The suit contends the law violates the state constitution that gives that authority to the Public Service Commission. Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy sided with the landowners and ruled the law unconstitutional.

The legislature approved the 2012 law as a follow-up to an agreement reached with TransCanada during a special legislative session in 2011. LB 1161 gave the governor authority to approve or reject pipeline routes through the state after the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality reviewed proposed routes and made a recommendation.

Judge Stacy ruled the Nebraska State Constitution gives exclusive regulatory control over pipeline companies, such as TransCanada, to the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

Gov. Heineman had notified President Barack Obama that Nebraska legal procedures concerning the route Keystone XL will take through the state have been satisfied. Domina contends the judge’s ruling makes the governor’s assertion suspect.

Domina says it is understandable that the State Department doesn’t want to move forward until the legal process on the route has been completed.

Completion will likely take some time.

Domina anticipates that he will have to submit briefs to the Nebraska Supreme Court in late July at the earliest, after the Attorney General’s office submits its briefs.

On that schedule, oral arguments will likely occur in September or October. A decision by the state Supreme Court could take weeks or months.

“It will be a while. I don’t think there will be any construction in 2014,” Domina tells Nebraska Radio Network.

The southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas, is operating.

The northern portion of Keystone XL which would run through Nebraska is estimated to cost $5.4 billion. It would carry 830,000 barrels of oil sands crude from Canada to the refineries.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Landowner attorney not surprised by State Dept. Keystone XL delay

State Department officials say they will not move on the Keystone XL oil pipeline due to the legal wrangling over the route through Nebraska.

Attorney Dave Domina, who represents the landowners challenging how the state went about authorizing the route, says the latest delay makes sense.

“I’m not at all surprised to hear that the presidential permit process has slowed for a final decision in Nebraska,” Domina tells Nebraska Radio Network. “It’s been the persistent position of the administration that all issues related to where the pipeline will go and how and where it will be built and operated have to be decided before the president will make a final decision about crossing the border.”

The lawsuit challenges the 2012 law approved by the legislature that gives the governor the authority to approve pipeline routes through the state. The lawsuit contends the law violates the state constitution that gives that authority solely to the Public Service Commission.

Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy sided with the landowners and ruled the law unconstitutional.

The legislature approved the 2012 law as a follow-up to an agreement reached with TransCanada during a special legislative session in 2011. LB 1161 gave the governor authority to approve or reject pipeline routes through the state after the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality reviewed proposed routes and made a recommendation.

Judge Stacy ruled the Nebraska State Constitution gives exclusive regulatory control over pipeline companies, such as TransCanada, to the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

Domina has stated in the past that the court ruling effectively rescinds Gov. Dave Heineman’s notification to President Barack Obama that Nebraska legal procedures have been satisfied. TransCanada has no approved route through Nebraska, according to Domina, who adds that the pipeline project is at a standstill in the state.

Domina says it is understandable that the State Department doesn’t want to move forward until the legal process on the route has been satisfied.

“And until the Nebraska process is in place, done correctly, and decided correctly we simply don’t know where the pipeline will go in this state,” according to Domina. “I know there is what TransCanada has called a final route, but no Nebraska authority has passed on the validity or prefer ability or reliability or safety of that route.”

Domina expects the State Department to delay its recommendation on whether TransCanada should be given a presidential permit to cross the border to build the pipeline until the legal issues in Nebraska are settled.

“We think the State Department will defer a decision until Nebraska’s legal process is final and there is a final, approved, lawfully approved, route in Nebraska.”

The southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas, is operating.

The northern portion of Keystone XL is estimated to cost $5.4 billion. It would carry 830,000 barrels of oil sands crude from Canada to the refineries.

Gov. Heineman praises lawmakers on last day (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman praised state lawmakers for their work this legislative session, addressing the Unicameral on the final day of the legislative session.

“It’s been a very good year for Nebraska taxpayers,” Heineman stated. “We are providing more than $412 million of tax relief to Nebraskans over the next five years. That is meaningful, responsible, and significant tax relief.”

The legislature indexed the state income tax system to inflation, exempted portions of

Social Security income from taxation, expanded the homestead exemption, and added money to the property tax relief fund.

Heineman highlighted tax cuts, though the legislature again this year balked at the governor’s proposal to cut taxes further.

Other legislation won praise from the governor.

“We’ve addressed the water sustainability issue with noteworthy legislation that preserves our water supply for generations to come,” Heineman said. “This legislation is aimed at planning for future water use in our state, especially in preparing for water shortages, as well as addressing water quality and flood control issues.”

Heineman also noted that the legislature has taken the first steps toward prison reform, steps that will continue when the state works with the Council of State Governments this summer.

Heineman added that he was pleased the legislature did not expand Medicaid, a measure that died when supporters couldn’t overcome a filibuster mounted against it. The governor also stated that legislature was right in not authorizing the state to use bonds for road construction, a measure that fell just short of the votes needed for passage.

Even as Heineman praised legislators for their work this year, he looked back over achievements during his decade-long run as governor.

“Over the years, working together, we’ve made a lot of progress on numerous issues,” according to Heineman. “We’ve focused our attention on the two most important, critical issues for the future of our state: education and jobs. We’ve passed statewide education assessments. We are focused on academic achievement and academic improvement.”

AUDIO:  Gov. Dave Heineman delivers farewell address on last day of legislative session. [7:40]