Governor Heineman is calling legislators back to Lincoln next month to consider ways a planned oil pipeline could be rerouted away from environmentally-sensitive area.
Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood of Norfolk says he welcomes the special session, but he still thinks there are significant hurdles to overcome in any such legislation.
“For those citizens that want the opportunity to weigh in with their state government, this is going to give everybody an open forum,” Speaker Flood says. “I’m going to keep an open mind and not pre-judge the result. Let’s see what happens. Let’s see what the discussion is.”
Flood says he hopes the governor’s call, which will define the limits for the special session, is broad in scope.
“When you go into special session, you don’t have a design on what the outcome should be or even a proposed solution that members can rally around,” Flood says. “I would prefer something fairly wide open to give us a lot of latitude.”
Flood says he believes federal law pre-empts state law in matters of pipeline safety and that interfering with the pipeline could violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. He says passing a law that would be thrown out by the courts is not being up-front with Nebraskans.
Flood says Senator Annette Dubas of Fullerton has been rewriting her bill on the subject, and he expects several other senators to also offer bills.
State Senator Tyson Larson, of O’Neill, says he represents a district where Keystone already has one pipeline and the new pipeline would also go through the same area.
“In the new part of my district, the western half of Holt and Rock County, the consensus is overwhelming,” Larson says. “They don’t support the pipeline. In the eastern part of my district, Cedar and Dixon and Knox counties, the reception has been mixed.”
Larson says he was surprised by the call for a special session “out of the blue” by Governor Heineman, as he has been opposed to the idea.
State Farmers Union President John Hansen says he’s pleasantly surprised at the governor’s decision.
“This is the right thing for the governor to do,” Hansen says. “This issue is of such high public interest and importance that it is appropriate for the Nebraska legislature to come together and contemplate what it is that we ought to do as a state.”
Hansen says state legislators have not yet dealt with proper siting or routing of the proposed pipeline and there are a whole host of other issues, including possible negative effects on groundwater, the environment and landowners.
Both Hansen and Governor Heineman believe the pipeline proposal is likely to face a court challenge. The special session will be held November 1st.
Jim Curry, WJAG, Norfolk & Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton