Reminder: Join us at the final PSC hearing on Oct. 16, 1pm, 1200 N Street, Hearing Room 300, Lincoln / FaceBook RSVP Link
Thank you to everyone who sent in ideas and comments to the Public Service Commission’s third set of rules and regulations for oil pipeline siting. Below you will see what Bold Nebraska submitted as our recommendations. Landowners and citizens gave input along the way and we could never do any of this work without each of you. We want to applaud the PSC for a fair and transparent process in developing these rules for pipeline siting.
As we now know, pipeline siting is the state–not the feds–responsibility. Despite what TransCanada still says in the press, it is NOT the US State Department’s role to determine if TransCanada can or can not place their pipeline next to Keystone 1 line or anywhere in our state for that matter. TransCanada recently lied to the Nebraska Radio Network about this basic and well documented fact. Nebraska has full legal control of where a pipeline can and can not go in our state borders.
The final PSC hearing is scheduled for Oct. 16th, at that point the PSC will formally hear all final comments from the public and then make their final set of rules and regulations public to govern the siting process of oil pipelines (that is of course except TransCanada since they got a special deal thanks to the NE Unicam).
Recently, Inside Climate reported on the route process in Nebraska and the lawsuit currently challenging the DEQ process of analyzing TransCanada’s Keystone XL route (aka the special deal just for TransCanada). The article does better than we can of describing what the DEQ process if flawed and why we hope the lawsuit is successful so TransCanada has to go thru the PSC process.
In the article, the PSC is quoted as saying “the commission could begin reviewing a pipeline proposal today using its draft rules—if it was asked to do so.” We hope they get that opportunity.
Join us at the PSC final hearing on Oct.16, 1-3pm at 1200 N Street, Hearing Room 300, Lincoln / FaceBook RSVP Link
Bold Nebraska’s Recommendations for the Public Service Commission
Nebraska Public Service Commission
P.O. Box 94927
Lincoln, NE 68509-4927
The following list of recommendations for rules and regulations regarding major oil pipelines has been prepared for submission to the Public Service Commission oil pipeline rules and regulations process.
Bold Nebraska has been actively following the issue of major oil pipelines for over two years, holding multiple meetings with the public, reviewing existing laws, and gathering public input.
Bold Nebraska staff have traveled to other states and visited existing areas impacted by spills and leaks of major oil pipelines, and Bold has networked with and gathered information from individuals ranging from landowners, first responders, clean-up workers, public officials, pipeline inspectors and lawmakers.
Our research has given us valuable, timely information and insight into what is needed in our state regarding regulation of major oil pipelines.
We support the revision process the PSC has undertaken, and we are encouraged that the PSC has incorporated suggestions and comments made by Bold Nebraska and by Nebraska citizens. We thank the PSC for their efforts to implement meaningful rules that take into consideration the very people those rules will be affecting most–the citizens of Nebraska.
Most notably, we strongly support the PSC’s inclusion of:
- Requiring specific and detailed pipeline ingredients to be disclosed through Safety Data Sheets;
- Requirements of soil permeability studies; and
- Requirements of distance-to-groundwater surveys along pipeline routes.
These requirements of oil pipelines are necessary additions that Bold Nebraska and many of our state’s citizens have been calling for throughout the pipeline application process. Again, we thank the PSC for including these much-needed items of importance.
While we are impressed with the progress the PSC has made throughout the revision process, Bold Nebraska believes that the state of Nebraska still has a long way to go in enacting common-sense and comprehensive laws regarding oil pipelines.
In regards to your third revisions of rules, we offer the following 24 recommendations and praise for specific sections:
1) We recommend that the PSC pass a comprehensive “right to know” order that would ensure that all pertinent public information be available to all parties concerned with pipeline infrastructure and emergency response issues. Such concerned parties include but are not limited to: nearby residents, property owners, schools, health care providers, utility operators, road crews, construction crews, and emergency response personnel. As part of this order, Nebraskans should have access to an easily-accessible, transparent, and up-to-date website containing relevant pipeline information. Nebraskans should not have to play phone tag and download dozens of files in order to get straight answers to simple questions. Information that should be publicly available:
Pipeline basics (e.g. what pipeline markers look like, emergency contact information, overview map of pipelines in the state)
Accurate location of gas and oil pipelines as well as pumping stations that service the lines
Emergency response and oil response plans including MSDS and evacuation zone (or PIRs)
Incident data records
Incident clean-up records
Incident response steps
Damage prevention records
Excavation damage data records
Full pipeline applications and supporting documents
Address look-up (meaning a feature that would allow citizens to input their address to sort for pipeline(s) in their area with links to the above-mentioned items)
2) Section 023.02: Lline 8 contains the language “a pipeline carrier proposing a substantive change to route.” We recommend that you add the language “or a change in contents of the pipeline,” subsequent to that wording so the sentence will read, “A pipeline carrier proposing a substantive change to route or a change in contents of the pipeline.” We ask this because, as pipeline companies begin to transport new substances (such as diluted bitumen) in old pipelines that were not built to handle such substances, interesting challenges and risks arise that are just as important to potential pipeline impact as the route of a pipeline and may even have a bearing on pipeline routing.
3) Section 023.02A3: We applaud the changes you made to this section. Thank you for considering our input as well as the input of others on this section.
4) Section 023.02A: We recommend inclusion of the following three items:
- A list of wildlife impacted and plans to minimize risk
- A list of waterbody crossings including rivers, streams domestic water wells and agricultural water wells
- A timetable of scheduled testing of crossed waterbodies including a location of where test results will be published for public access
5) Section 023.10: Again, we praise your decision to include this section. We thank you for your thoughtfulness in this matter. Without an appeals option, there would be no checks and balances so necessary to a healthy democratic process.
6) We recommend that the PSC should not grant “public utility” status to any foreign-owned major oil pipeline or to any American-owned major oil pipeline that is owned by a private company. No major oil pipeline (i.e. lines over 12 inches) that is not owned by the state of Nebraska or by a public entity within the state of Nebraska should be given public utility status in the state of Nebraska. Especially, given that we are a “public power” state.
7) We recommend that no major oil pipeline shall be given Nebraska “common-carrier” status unless it can be demonstrated that a majority (51% or more) of the pipeline contents came from in-state sources and that a majority (51% or more) of the pipeline contents is destined for in-state usage.
8) We recommend that no underground major oil pipeline be allowed to pass through the following areas:
1. an area where the soil type is composed of highly permeable materials such as sand and gravel, combined with a distance-to-groundwater level of less than 20 feet, for a linear duration of more than one-half mile.
2. an area where the distance-to-groundwater level is less than 10 feet, regardless of soil types or soil permeability, for a linear duration of more than one-quarter mile.
9) We recommend that any area in which a major oil pipeline passes within two miles of a municipality be deemed a “high consequence” area.
10) We recommend that any area in which a major oil pipeline passes within one mile of a private residence be deemed a “high consequence” area.
11) We recommend that any area in which a major oil pipeline passes within one mile of a domestic water well be deemed a “high consequence” area.
12) We recommend that the PSC adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of “high consequence areas” (HCAs) are explained as follows:
Pipeline safety regulations use the concept of HCAs to identify specific locales and areas where a release could have the most significant adverse consequences. HCAs include populated areas, designated zones around public drinking water intakes, and unusually sensitive ecologically resource areas (USAs) that could be damaged by a hazardous liquid pipeline release.
Section 4.3, p.4-20.
13) We recommend that the PSC adopt the U.S. State Department’s definition of management practices for “high consequence areas”:
To protect particularly sensitive resources, HCAs would be subject to a higher level of inspection per USDOT regulations. Federal regulations require periodic assessment of the pipe condition and timely correction of identified anomalies within HCAs. Keystone will develop management and analysis processes that integrate available integrity-related data and information and assess the risks associated with segments that can affect HCAs.
Keystone will conduct a yearly survey to locate HCA changes along the pipeline system. If portions of the pipeline became population HCAs during the operational pipeline life, Keystone will notify the appropriate representatives at PHMSA.
Section 4.3.4, p.4-24.
14) We know that in dealing with HCA’s, pipeline operators have often been allowed to take advantage of safety waivers that may or may not have been granted for the rest of the pipeline, for example using thinner-walled pipe and pumping at higher pressure. We recommend such safety waivers not apply to HCA’s in Nebraska.
15) We recommend that no major oil pipeline can cross wildlife habitat areas as identified by Nebraska Game and Parks: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1029&context=nebgamewhitepap
16) We recommend that NO industry representative or their allied groups, lobbyists or former contractors/consultants are allowed to write regulations or sit on any committees since this is a clear conflict of interest.
17) We recommend that a training facility be built to train inspectors and first responders as part of the Emergency Response Plan.
18) We recommend that for every major oil pipeline application submitted to the PSC, the full application must be made public including:
- Emergency response plan including chain of command with local and national entities and agencies as well as placement of emergency response equipment
- Detailed disclosure of pipeline contents including any chemicals mixed with solvents
- Water (including private and public wells and river) crossings
- Wildlife impacted
- Plants impacted
- Archaeological areas impacted
- Native American artifacts impacted
- Alternative routes (at least 3)
- Local tax estimates the company will pay to counties broken down by county
- Detailed listing of all land crossed of the pipeline company’s preferred route
- Maintenance plans (e.g. times of fly overs)
19) We recommend that no high-occupancy, hard to evacuate buildings (e.g. schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc) are within 500 feet of oil pipelines larger than 12-inch diameter.
20) We recommend that no major oil pipelines be placed within 500 feet of wind or solar projects.
21) We recommend that a citizen and landowner advisory group be formed to advise the PSC on oil pipeline regulations and applications.
22) We recommend an in-depth legal study be conducted on the process and granting of eminent domain and then the proper systems be adopted and implemented. Since it is currently unclear which Nebraska government agency grants the power of eminent domain and where landowners can go on questions regarding their rights, it is imperative this be part of the oil pipeline rules and regulatory process.
23) The taking law in Eminent Domain can not be used until all court proceedings are complete from the Eminent Domain case. All other court proceedings must be on file with the county court before any construction begins.
24) No pipeline shall be allowed within 1000 feet of a residence.
We realize that regulating major oil pipelines in Nebraska is a relatively new concept, and we welcome the PSC’s invitation to participate in this historic and important process that is necessary for the future well-being of our state. Again, we thank the PSC for implementing recommendations made by Bold Nebraska and citizens. Thank you for considering these recommendations, and please contact us if you have questions, need clarification, or would like to schedule a meeting to discuss any of these items.
We look forward to working with you in the future.