A state senator who has drafted oil pipeline legislation says she will keep pressing for a special session after meeting with a top TransCanada executive.
Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton says senators had a great dialogue with the TransCanada executives during a four-hour meeting in Norfolk Tuesday, but the company’s refusal to move the Keystone XL pipeline leaves her with little choice but to pursue a special session.
“I intend to continue to move forward with what I’m doing as far as talking to my colleagues about my legislation and if it’s not my legislation, then what is it we need to put out there,” says Dubas.
Gov. Dave Heineman has refused to call the legislature into special session to consider oil pipeline legislation. He contends consensus on the issue is lacking. State senators can call themselves into special session, if 33 senators agree. That’s a tall order, to get 33 of the 49 senators to issue the call. It has never been done in the history of the Unicameral.
Speaker Mike Flood of Norfolk held a Capitol news conference to state that he was taking the talk of a special session seriously. Flood set up the meeting between state senators and TransCanada President of Energy and Oil Pipelines, Alex Pourbaix, and Vice President Robert Jones in his Norfolk law offices.
Flood says the meeting didn’t persuade him to support a special session call.
“I don’t want anybody to walk away from this meeting thinking that the legislature is any closer or further away from a special session. This was a necessary part of the fact-finding responsibility we have as state senators,” according to Flood. “We sat across the table, the Nebraska way, to find out answers to very difficult questions.”
TransCanada’s refusal to move the pipeline away from the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer has prompted calls for the legislature to meet in special session to address the issue.
Dubas’s proposal would give the Public Service Commission authority over oil pipelines in Nebraska. Dubas wants the legislature to consider her proposal during a special session, though she says she understands there is much to consider before a call goes out.
“As the Speaker outlined, there are some serious legal questions that we need to make sure we have sufficient answers to as we move forward with this process,” Dubas says. “I think it’s an issue that our citizens are expecting us to respond to.”
TransCanada proposes building a $7 billion 36” pipeline from western Canada to the Gulf Coast, approximately 1,700 miles. It would carry crude oil made from the tar sands of Canada. The proposed route would go through the Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer, which has sparked controversy in Nebraska. Critics charge that its construction would harm the fragile environment of the Sand Hills and pose possible pollution to drinking water taken from the Ogallala Aquifer.
Jim Curry, WJAG, contributed to this article.