TransCanada promises to re-route the Keystone XL pipeline away from the Sand Hills, but some put little stock in the promise.
The decision by TransCanada led to the breakthrough in the special legislative session. It came on the heels of the Department of State announcement that it would delay consideration of TransCanada’s presidential permit so alternative pipeline routes could be considered to avoid the Sand Hills in Nebraska.
Once TransCanada made the decision, the legislature embarked on a two-step process. One bill would engage the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality to conduct a supplemental environmental study to help determine a different route for Keystone XL. It also allocates up to $2 million to pay for the study. DEQ will work with federal officials to conduct the study. The governor would have to sign off on the new route. The other bill would give the Public Service Commission authority to regulate oil pipelines in Nebraska and approve the routes they take.
Merrick County rancher Randy Thompson says he has mixed feelings about the special session. He’s glad the legislature tackled the oil pipeline issue, but still worries about TransCanada. In fact, Thompson vows to keep an eye on TransCanada.
“Well, number one, I don’t trust them,” Thompson tells Nebraska Radio Network. “And a lot of other Nebraska people don’t trust them.”
Thompson claims experience with TransCanada has bred mistrust.
“Just the way they’ve treated landowners and things they have told landowners in order to get them to sign easement agreements and that type of thing,” Thompson says.
But a spokesman for the company, Shawn Howard, insists Nebraska can trust TransCanada.
“TransCanada always keeps its word,” Howard tells Nebraska Radio Network. “We have assured legislators in front of committees. We have assured legislators throughout the debate. We’ve stated publicly that we will be moving the route outside of the Sand Hills.”
And, even while Thompson and others question TransCanada’s integrity a few Nebraska landowners testified before the Natural Resources Committee during the special session that they had had no problem working with the company.
TransCanada hopes the special session clears the way for construction of Keystone XL. But Howard is quick to point out that TransCanada’s application for a presidential permit has been an unpredictable process. At one time, it appeared well on its way to approval until it ran into growing resistance in Nebraska. The resistance built until Governor Heineman surprised many by calling the legislature into special session to deal with oil pipeline regulations.