A campaign for a seat on the Public Service Commission is becoming a referendum on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The fight over Keystone XL has awakened a normally sleepy race for the PSC.
Republican State Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse says he’s surprised Democrat Christa Yoakum of Lincoln has made opposition to Keystone XL the centerpiece of her campaign.
“I am; very surprised,” Watermeier tells Nebraska Radio Network. “In fact, I’ve had several people come to me and say, ‘Well Dan, she’s kind of excluded herself from the decision.’ Because once she’s laid down the law like that and saying, ‘I’m going to vote against it, no matter what,’ she should recuse herself from the decision-making process.”
Yoakum, though, justifies her stance against Keystone XL.
“Look, we have a lot of pipelines running through our state and each one should be taken on its own values, but I’ve looked at this pipeline for 10 years. I think that’s long enough for me to have an opinion on it,” Yoakum tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Watermeier and Yoakum are running for the District One seat on the PSC, which represents the southeastern region of Nebraska. Current commissioner Fran Landis is retiring after 30 years on the PSC.
The PSC last year approved an alternative route for Keystone XL after rejecting the route proposed by TransCanada for the $8 billion project. It was a close vote; 3-2 with Landis voting in favor of the alternative route.
It might not be the last vote the PSC takes on Keystone XL. The approval has been appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court, which is hearing the case today.
Though Keystone XL has become the dominate issue in the race, both Watermeier and Yoakum express interest in the PSC’s jurisdiction on other issues, such as extending broadband coverage over the entire state as well as pushing for next generation 911.
Watermeier was first elected to the legislature in 2012.
Yoakum is Home Coordinator – Immigrants and Communities Program for Nebraska Appleseed, a non-profit based in Lincoln.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]