A bill giving the Public Service Commission authority to decide the route that an oil pipeline may take in Nebraska has been advanced in the special legislative session.
“What a difference a day makes,” Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton stated in her remarks to open floor debate on LB1, which would give the Public Service Commission authority to regulate oil pipelines.
Dubas acknowledged to colleagues the abrupt change in the prospects of the special session after TransCanada agreed to move the Keystone XL pipeline away from the Sand Hills. Dubas said that giving the Public Service Commission the authority puts power in the hands of an independent state agency of duly elected officials.
“Our citizens will have a voice for any concerns and our state will have the ability to interject conditions that will insure any location of a pipeline serves Nebraskans’ public interest,” according to Dubas.
An amendment added to the bill states that the bill only applies to future oil pipelines, a provision that excludes the Keystone XL pipeline and removes a commonly sited constitutional problem with the bill.
Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood of Norfolk has come out in favor of giving the Public Service Commission, rather than the governor, the authority. Flood, during legislative flood debate, said who the legislature gives such authority is one of the main questions to be answered during the special session.
“And, I think, when you’re looking at long-term siting of pipelines, an agency such as the Public Service Commission has the background and the expertise and the ability to really get into the rule-making process,” Flood told colleagues during floor debate. “And you’re not leaving one elected officials in this state with the sole responsibility of siting a pipeline.”
Even though the legislature voted unanimously to advance the bill, some senators expressed concern about it.
Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha noted that LB1 is not much different, if at all, from bills which have died in committee in past legislative sessions. Krist told fellow senators he will vote in favor of advancing the bill, trusting that the sponsor will address issues raised during the debate.
“I want us to think and trust in our colleagues, in the committee, to take everything we that we’ve said today. Vote green and give us something we can be proud of,” Krist stated.
Dubas promised to take all the comments made during debate under consideration in reshaping the bill. Dubas also said she would be meeting later this afternoon with lawyers on both sides of the issue to make the changes needed to answer lingering legal questions.