A state senator contends the legislature was placed in a horrible position when called into special session and is now doing the best it can.
Lawmakers are on the verge of passing two pieces of legislation; one which would deal more directly with TransCanada’s proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline, the other more general regulations for future oil pipelines. Once senators complete their work today, both pieces of legislation should be ready for final consideration on Tuesday, the projected last day of the special session.
During flood debate on LB1, Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha told colleagues they should never have been called into special session.
“We’ve been put into a horrible position and I wish we weren’t here and I’ve been very clear that I’m frankly embarrassed by this whole thing,” Lautenbaugh stated. “But, we’ve worked through it as best we could and we’ve made the best with the hand we’re dealt.”
The Unicameral on Thursday passed an amended version of LB1 in which sponsor Annette Dubas, a senator from Fullerton, made changes to appease senators who objected to its original form. The changes worked. The bill advanced on a unanimous vote.
LB1 is the general legislation that applies to future pipelines. It would give the Public Service Commission authority to determine the route of oil pipelines. A pipeline company could not exercise the power of eminent domain until receiving a permit, under the legislation.
Today, the legislature returns to the Capitol to consider the radical changes made to LB4. The bill now addresses the Keystone XL pipeline, though its wording has been tweaked to avoid charges of special legislation which runs afoul of the constitution. It also carries a provision that the state will pay for the supplemental environmental impact study, a necessary step toward finding a new route.
Lautenbaugh told Nebraska Radio Network he made the comments on the floor, because he believes Keystone XL never posed any risks to the state, certainly not any risks that would warrant a special session call. Still, once called, the legislature had to do the best it could as events developed.
“Once we were called together, we were put in a bad spot. I did not want to become a reason for people to sit on their hands regarding the pipeline and I feel like that’s what happened,” Lautenbaugh said. “Now we’re just trying to salvage it and pass something that will get the project back on track in my estimation.”
Has the legislature salvaged it?
“I hope so,” Lautenbaugh, replied. He paused, and then repeated. “I hope so.”