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Nebraska has a Role in Pipeline Regulation, You Can Help

On January 5th, as our state legislature starts their new session, advocates will be at our state capitol reminding our elected officials they have a clear role and several areas of responsibility when it comes to the current TransCanada Keystone I and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.  

This is critically important, especially given recent stories of TransCanada having to dig up and test the current Keystone I pipeline (as a side note, TransCanada will not disclose exact locations of where they are digging in Nebraska).

Nebraska can pass and implement a state-based routing statute.  Heineman and our state senators could determine, by state law, that certain parts of our state are “off limits.”  If you are a county leader, you can do this too at your level, although a consistent state law is much stronger and better for all involved.

The specific areas Nebraska has control over include:

  • Siting and routing of pipelines

  • Eminent domain process and terms

  • Easement abandonment

  • Emergency response planning

  • Liability for spills

  • Regulation of neighboring land uses

South Dakota, Montana, Kansas and other surrounding states surrounding all have laws that govern pipelines.  Some examples for Heineman and state senators that they could look over and create a similar law that fits our state include these two Montana laws:

Montana Annotated Code Chapter 75-20, specifically §75-20-211(1)(a)(iii) and § 75-20-301(1)–contents of applications for pipeline and electric transmission lines includes alternative locations and which authorizes approval of alternatives to proposed pipeline and electric transmission line projects.

Mont. Power Co. v. Fondren, 226 M 500, 737 P2d 1138, 44 St. Rep. 850 (1987). Montana Board of Environmental Review sets route for facilities defined under Montana Annotated Code § 75-20-104(8); although this decision is for an electric transmission line, the same routing requirements apply to large crude oil pipelines.

If Heineman was a strong leader, he would do common sense things like…

  • Require companies to have a bond for all road repairs, which can be a big problem for our smaller counties.
  • Set extra safety requirements for areas that we know are different from typical, large cities that Emergency Response Plans focus on.  We know the current TransCanada Emergency Response Plan is not adequate for the more remote areas of our state, yet the governor is playing “Not it!” when in fact he is very much it — like in the center of it.
  • Fix our broken state eminent domain law.  Right now any foreign oil company could come into Nebraska and start threatening to use eminent domain to build a pipeline.  TransCanada is taking advantage of our liberal eminent domain law, and Heineman is doing nothing about it.
  • Protect our state’s budget by requiring oil companies, including TransCanada, to pay for any infrastructure needs up front rather than putting up the money for things like extra transmission lines.
  • Protect our state’s budget by requiring oil companies to put money in a trust for oil spills, liability, damage to land, etc.  Right now, landowners have to hire lawyers and negotiate liability by themselves.  That is flat out wrong.  This is an area where Attorney General Bruning should step up and lead.
  • Pass a state law that says any energy company that risks our ethanol, biofuels and wind companies is not welcome in our state.  TransCanada is a direct threat to those industries.
  • Require companies to have at least 30% of the labor force from our state.  Right now, TransCanada employs only about 12% of Nebraskans for the all the jobs building a pipeline.  
  • Name or create a state agency that has control over oil pipelines.  Right now we do not have any agency that governs or gives oversight to oil pipelines.
  • Require state agencies that might have some expert knowledge in oil pipelines to give a full report to any federal agency’s process.  For example, during the comment period for the TransCanada pipeline only one Nebraska state agency weighed in—Nebraska Game and Parks.  The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality was completely silent.
  • Ensure that we have a strong state “abandonment” law that requires oil companies to pay for digging or plugging up pipelines that are no longer in use.

But what does Heineman tell us?  What does Heineman do?  Nothing, absolutely nothing.  I mean, can we get a little help from the leader of our state?

As citizens, we are saying something and we are doing something.  Join us on January 5th to remind our state elected officials we need their help and we need them to act now on the pipeline.

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