Groups opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline say they will propose a ballot measure to regulate oil pipeline routes if the governor or legislature fails to address the issue.
Bold Nebraska and the Nebraska chapter of the Sierra Club want Governor Heineman to call the legislature into special session to address TransCanada’s proposal to build an oil pipeline through the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer.
“If the state senators and Gov. Heineman do not call a special session, we do plan on moving forward with a ballot initiative,” Jane Kleeb told reporters during a news conference in Lincoln.
Kleeb said a recent public opinion survey provides optimism that such an initiative might pass. A
public opinion poll conducted by Lake Research Partners found that 64% of the respondents stated they would vote in favor of a ballot initiative giving the state authority to regulate oil pipelines. Strong support for such an initiative, according to the poll, stands at 45%, the total support growing to the 64% mark.
Gov. Heineman has written the Obama Administration, asking that the State Department deny TransCanada the pipeline permit. Heineman has declined to call the legislature into special session to consider a bill in opposition to the proposed route.
Ken Winston of the Nebraska Chapter of the Sierra Club insisted that relying on the State Department to deny TransCanada’s permit isn’t a smart strategy.
“We can’t expect the Secretary of State to protect our water and our land,” Winston stated.
If a special session isn’t called, the groups are prepared to push a ballot measure asking voters to authorize the state to regulate oil pipelines.
“And so, if our government fails to do it, the bottom line is citizens are prepared to take this directly to the voters,” according to Kleeb.
TransCanada proposes building a $7 billion pipeline from Western Canada to the Gulf Coast. The proposed route would go through the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer. Two public hearings on the proposal will be held in Nebraska next week, one in the Sand Hills. The first public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, September 27th at the Pershing Center in Lincoln, beginning at noon. The State Department will take testimony from noon until 3:30pm, take a break and return for more testimony at 4pm. Two days later, the State Department will hear from the public in Atkinson. That public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, September 29th at West Holt High School in Atkinson, scheduled to begin at 4:30pm.