Governor Heineman says he doesn’t anticipate calling a special session to consider legislation against the Keystone XL pipeline.
State Senator Ken Haar of Malcolm has suggested a special session be called for lawmakers to address concerns about TransCanada’s plans to construct the oil pipeline through the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer. Heineman says Haar’s timing seems a bit off.
“They should have acted during the legislative session if they wanted a bill on siting and to get it to my desk,” Heineman told reporters during a news conference at the Capitol. “They didn’t act, because they didn’t have the votes. It’s my understanding in talking with the Speaker (State Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk) and others not much has changed.”
TransCanada proposes constructing an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Plans call for the pipeline to cross the Sand Hills in north-central Nebraska and over the Ogallala Aquifer. Oil spills in other states have raised concerns about the pipeline’s safety. A report issued by a University of Nebraska engineering professor suggests that a major spill could contaminate drinking water over a very wide area, perhaps as far downstream at Kansas City, Missouri. TransCanada insists the pipeline will be safe and its response to any spill would be fast.
Heineman points out that Haar couldn’t get any legislation out of committee and before the legislature during the regular session.
“And I have no reason, based on conversations I’ve heard from a number of senators that much has changed,” Heineman states. “Now, Senator Haar presents a letter to me saying 33 senators have agreed to a siting process, that’s a different story. I’m not aware that he has anywhere remotely close to that number of senators.”
The governor can call the legislature back into special session. Also, state law allows 10 senators to request a poll of lawmakers. If 33 of the 49 senators agree, the governor would be required to call a special session.
Heineman says a special session would cost $10,000 a day with no guarantee of results. He says those opposed to the pipeline should concentrate on the federal regulatory process.