The deal that paved the way for a successful conclusion to the special session hangs on a promise that Nebraska lawmakers expect to be fulfilled.
Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood of Norfolk worked out the deal with TransCanada which led to the company volunteering to move the Keystone XL pipeline out of the Sandhills. There is no written agreement, no contract, no guarantee.
Flood says he takes TransCanada executives at their word.
“Well, they say they’d stay out of the Sand Hills and that’s exactly what the citizens expect and that’s what they expect,” Flood says. “So, I’m very comfortable based on what I know.”
That decision by TransCanada, prompted by the Department of State’s decision to delay action on its presidential permit for Keystone XL, cleared the special session path of constitutional obstacles. It intervened between two competing proposals and created two complimentary ones. LB4 would drop its intention of giving the governor authority to decide the routes oil pipelines would take through Nebraska and, instead, became the vehicle to carry the compromise Flood worked out with TransCanada officials. LB1 no longer addressed Keystone and, unencumbered by constitutional brambles, could move forward to give authority to the Public Service Commission to approve the routes of any future oil pipelines.
The movement all hinges on TransCanada’s promise to seek an alternative route, one outside the Sand Hills and skirting as much of the Ogallala Aquifer as possible.
If TransCanada doesn’t follow through and find that alternative route, Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Senator Chris Langemeier of Schuyler, suggests the legislature might well be back where it started.
“I’m sure if they don’t live up to their end of this we may be back in a special session, addressing them again,” Langemeier says.
The fallback of the deal lies in the details of LB4. Under the bill, the governor would have to sign off on any alternative suggested by TransCanada.