Nebraska lawmakers returned to oil pipeline legislation in wake of the rejection of Keystone XL pipeline permit in Washington, advancing a bill that updates work during the special session last summer.
A number of state legislators expressed frustration about moves in Washington, D.C. that led to President Obama’s denial of TransCanada’s permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline from western Canada to oil refineries at the Gulf Coast in Texas. The Unicameral met in special session last summer and approved legislation to give the state power to regulate the routes oil pipelines take through Nebraska. TransCanada reached agreement during negotiations with legislative leaders to find an alternative route for Keystone around the Sand Hills.
Supporters of Keystone in Washington then took over and attempted to force President Obama to speed up approval of Keystone. It didn’t work. The president rejected the application, though he left the door open for TransCanada to resubmit the request.
“So here we are today and the games continue,” Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton told colleagues. “And to be quite honest, I am very angry that all of the hard work that we put into before and during the special session has been thrown under the bus by political games and lobby efforts being played out in Washington, D.C.”
Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion sponsors LB 1161, which would extend the period of time for state regulators to work with TransCanada to find an alternative route. It also allows the state to move independently of the federal government, which cannot move forward due to the president’s action. The bill also strengthens property owner protection in eminent domain proceedings, according to Smith.
Sen. Tom Carlson of Holdrege stated that while not all Nebraskans support Keystone, he believes it’s vital to supplying the nation’s energy needs.
“I want us in the United States and in Nebraska to be energy independent,” Carlson stated during floor debate. “I want us to develop our own fossil fuels. When we buy, I would like to buy from a friendly neighbor, rather than a country that doesn’t like us.”
A few lawmakers worried that the legislation could be consider special legislation and, therefore, subject to a constitutional challenge. Then, there is the issue itself.
“I’m going to make an observation about this whole TransCanada pipeline process,” Sen. Steve Lathrop said. “It seems like every time we try to fix something, whether we’re doing it in Lincoln or doing it in Washington, D.C., we’ve made matters worse.”
The legislation advances. It will be subject to another round of debate before it can move to a final vote.
AUDIO: First hour of debate on LB 1161, oil pipeline siting legislation [One hour]