Sen. Nelson disagreed Wednesday with Gov. Heineman about the state’s power to change the route of the Keystone XL pipeline, saying that Nebraska does have authority to force TransCanada to change the route.
Heineman, during a news conference at the Capitol Wednesday, disputed claims made by an assistant United States Secretary of State who said states have the power to decide the route of oil pipelines. Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones told the Lincoln Journal Star that the State Department only has the authority to grant a permit to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, not the pipeline’s route. She said that belonged to the state.
Heineman dismissed the suggestion.
“This is the Obama Administration, again, not taking responsibility for their actions, trying to shift the blame to someone else,” Heineman replied when asked about the comment.
The route has become the crucial issue in public hearings being held by the State Department prior to deciding whether to grant a permit. TransCanada proposes building the pipeline through the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer, which has been criticized as needlessly risking a fragile environment and a major source of drinking water.
The State Department says it has not made a decision on the pending presidential permit application filed by TransCanada. State Department officials listened to about eight hours of impassioned testimony at the Pershing Center in Lincoln Tuesday. It holds a second public hearing in Nebraska this afternoon, at West Holt High School in Atkinson, which is located in the Sand Hills. That public hearing begins at 4:30pm.
Sen. Nelson, visiting a Lincoln high school later in the day, was asked by reporters about the governor’s statements. Nelson said that the State Department will determine whether the pipeline is safe, but it’s up to the state to determine the route it takes.
Nelson, a Democrat, provided an assessment at odds with Heineman, a Republican.
“I know that there is a big push for a special session. If that doesn’t happen, the state can make the decision where the location is simply by acquiescence, by doing nothing,” Nelson stated. “If the governor does nothing, if the legislature does nothing, the decision’s made.”
Nelson dismissed concerns about restrictions imposed by the Commerce Clause, raised by both Heineman and Senator Johanns, saying the State Department can grant the permit, but it’s up to Nebraska to determine the route it takes.
“As far as I’m concerned, somebody may not want to make that decision, but that doesn’t change the question of whether or not they have the responsibility and authority,” Nelson said.
Nelson said that both the Congressional Research Office and the State Department have determined that states have the authority to decide the route of oil pipelines within their borders.
For a link to a map of the Keystone XL pipeline route click here.