A breakthrough could signal a conclusion to the special session and an end to the Keystone XL pipeline controversy.
“This has been an issue that will define us for many years,” Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood Norfolk informed fellow senators TransCanada has agreed to re-route the Keystone XL pipeline away from the Sand Hills and will work with the state on a new route.
Flood, during his speech from the floor, urged the legislature to complete the special session by passing oil pipeline regulations.
“So that we never have to live through this nightmare again, we should put oil pipeline siting legislation on the books,” Flood stated.
The announcement during the first day of full legislative debate on LB4, which would have given authority over the routes of pipelines to the governor, stopped the special session cold. But it was greeted warmly as welcome news to more than a few state senators who couldn’t see a successful conclusion to the special session.
“I really feel very optimistic that we have a win-win solution here,” stated Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, who was the lone vote on the Natural Resources Committee against sending LB4 to the full legislature for debate.
Plenty of legislative work remains. The Unicameral will return this morning to debate Sen. Annette Dubas’ bill, LB1, which would grant authority over pipelines to the Public Service Commission. The Natural Resources Committee will hold a public hearing on an amendment by Flood that would call for the state to work with the federal government to obtain a supplemental environmental impact study of an alternative pipeline route, a study Flood proposes the state pay for. A revised oil pipeline bill could be ready for legislative debate Monday.
The deal brokered by Speaker Flood with the State Department and TransCanada must still receive approval of the legislature and the governor, but Sen. Dubas believes it has paved the way for a successful end to a special session unpredictable from the beginning.
“The largest obstacles are out of the way and I am very confident we’re going to able to make something come from this special session,” Dubas said.