Gov. Dave Heineman says he’s willing to call a special legislative session if state senators show support for an oil pipeline regulation bill.
Heineman tells the Jack and John Show on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN in Lincoln that he still believes the best way to stop the Keystone XL pipeline from going through the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer is for the Obama Administration to deny TransCanada a permit.
Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton has circulated the draft of a bill that would give the Public Service Commission authority over oil pipelines. Under the bill, the commission would have authority over the route a pipeline takes and the commission would have to give the OK for a pipeline company to use eminent domain to seize land for the pipeline.
Heineman has met with Dubas and says he’s reviewing the proposed legislation that could become a focal point of a special legislative session. The governor rejects suggestions state senators would be persuaded to back legislation if he pushed hard enough.
“There are 49 independently elected, non-partisan state senators who rebel when they suggest they have to take orders from the governor,” Heineman says. “They are a separate branch of government. We have three branches in this state; the judicial, the executive and the legislative. So, it doesn’t work quite that way.”
Heineman points out the legislature cannot write a bill that specifically targets TransCanada’s plans to lay the pipeline through the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer.
“So, you could have a situation (in which) we pass a bill that we think will change the route, they meet the criteria and the Public Service Commission will be forced to say that route’s OK,” according to Heineman. “So, it’s not a slam dunk. Even Sen. Dubas admits that. You can’t write a bill that will guarantee the route will change.”
Again, even to consider calling a special session on the issue, Heineman says he would need assurances that the support is there among state senators. Heineman says he’s heard the calls for a special session, but won’t act unless state senators give a strong indication they support pipeline regulations.
“I can call a special session, but if they just sit there on their hands, they won’t pass a bill out of the committee, only seven of them are willing to support a bill, all we do is sit there and debate and waste $10,000 a day,” Heineman says. “I don’t think that makes sense. I think Nebraskans, rightfully, would be critical of me for taking that kind of risk.”
The issue has gained momentum as the State Department held hearings on the Keystone XL pipeline in both Lincoln and Atkinson. Heineman says public sentiment has prompted him to come out against the proposed route.
“I think a lot of people were surprised when I sent the second letter to the president of the United States, but that’s because I was listening to the people of Nebraska,” Heineman adds. “There’s been a sea change on this issue in the last hundred days.”