State senators have concluded the special legislative session with passage of two oil pipeline regulation bills. Governor Heineman has signed both bills into law.
Legislators approved LB1 48-0. The bill gives authority to the Public Service Commission to regulate oil pipelines in Nebraska, including the routes they take. Legislators earlier approved LB4, which more directly impacts the Keystone XL pipeline. The bill provides up to $2 million in state funds to study the environmental impact of an alternative route for Keystone XL, which TransCanada initially proposed building through the Sand Hills.
The vote on LB4 was 46-0 with two senators abstaining.
The Unicameral wasted little time in approving the legislation. Then, in an unusual move, Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood gave the bills to the Natural Resources Committee to hand deliver to Gov. Dave Heineman. Committee members walked from the legislative chamber to the governor’s office prior to a brief signing ceremony in which the governor signed both bills.
“Our work is done, we’re trying to expedite this process,” Heineman stated as he opened the brief signing ceremony.
The governor welcomed the sponsors of the legislation to speak.
Natural Resources Committee Chairman Chris Langemeier of Schuyler saw his bill (LB4) change drastically in the special session. Speaker Mike Flood of Norfolk brokered the compromise that led to the breakthrough which turned the special session. TransCanada agreed to move the Keystone XL pipeline away from the Sand Hills. Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton modified her bill (LB1) to apply only to future pipelines. Langemeier accepted changes to his bill to carry out the agreement.
“With the passage now of LB4 and LB1 we have two systems available to help people who want to put pipelines in Nebraska get them in a better location. And with the passage of LB1 we now have routing authority,” Langemeier said during the signing ceremony. “So, we hope to not be in this situation in the future.”
Dubas gave credit for the special session’s success to Nebraskans.
“At times, leaders lead. But other times, the people lead,” Dubas stated. “And I think, especially on this issue, the people led.”
Under Dubas’ bill, the Public Service Commission will have authority to regulate oil pipelines, including the approval of pipeline routes.
“LB1 will ensure that businesses know the rules when they decide to make Nebraska their home,” Dubas said during the signing ceremony. “And it also gives our citizens the ability to participate in the approval process through public hearings.”
Legislators gathered in special session at the Capitol in Lincoln with a state embroiled in the controversy over the Keystone XL pipeline. Though an environmental study commissioned by the Department of State determined that the route through the Sand Hills and over the Ogallala Aquifer posed little risk, concern about construction in the unique terrain of the Sand Hills and possible contamination of the aquifer failed to die down. Still, lawmakers failed to see any way around a number of constitutional objections until Flood cleared the compromise legislation with the State Department and TransCanada, leading to what he called the two-step process.
TransCanada proposes building a $7 billion pipeline over 1,700 miles to carry crude oil extracted from tar sands in western Canada to refineries in the Gulf Coast. The pipeline as proposed would go through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The State Department has jurisdiction because it would enter the United States from Canada and still has final say on granting the permit for TransCanada to proceed.