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State Senators Join Pipeline Effort, Some Stay Silent

Big news in Nebraska!  State senator Ken Haar and 20 other state senators (full letter and senators below) have expressed their concern about the TransCanada pipeline crossing the lifeblood of our state, the Ogallala Aquifer, and one of America’s most unique ecosystems, the Sandhills.  The letter comes after three bills have also been introduced in the state senate to protect our state on pipeline concerns.

Senator Haar stated, “We are submitting this letter because we share the desire of Senators Nelson and Johanns to protect Nebraska’s irreplaceable natural resources, particularly the Sandhills and the Ogallala aquifer.”

When we started to organize around stopping the pipeline, as well as ensuring we have basic state laws to protect our resources and landowners’ rights, we were told by many state elected officials that there was nothing they could do and that it was all in the hands of the federal government.

All of us knew differently.

Nebraska has a very clear role in various aspects of pipeline safety, routing, eminent domain and more.  Your voices and advocacy helped make this happen!

The one “downer” is the two state senators that should have been leading this effort, State Senators Deb Fischer and Tyson Larson, have either sent signals they support the pipeline or stayed pretty much silent.  They represent many landowners in the Sandhills and should be standing up to protect the land and ranchers from TransCanada’s, a foreign company, threats of eminent domain and a blatant lack of state-level protection for both landowners’ liability and natural resources.

Action:

Send “Thank you” emails to the state senators who signed the letter to Secretary Clinton as well as the state senators who introduced legistlation to protect Nebraska from risky pipelines (their emails are hyperlinked by the name below).  Send “Do more” emails to senators Fischer and Larson, dfischer@leg.ne.gov and tlarson@leg.ne.gov.  

Bills introduced in the Nebraska state legislature:

LB 340, establishes state-based guidelines and oversight for oil pipelines. Introduced by Senator Dubas, send thank you to adubas@leg.ne.gov.

LB 629, establishes a state-based certification process for oil pipelines. Introduced by Senator Sullivan, send thank you to ksullivan@leg.ne.gov

LB 578, requires pipeline companies to be financially responsible for clean-up, decommissioning, maintenance to roads. Introduced by Senator Haar, send thank you to khaar@leg.ne.gov.

State Senators’ Letter to Secretary Clinton:

January 21, 2011

U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:

We are writing concerning the siting of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project that is currently under consideration by the State Department.  As state senators in Nebraska we have heard and share the concerns of our constituents regarding potential harm to the Ogallala Aquifer and in particular, the Sandhills, in Nebraska. 

We unequivocally support the positions taken by our two United States Senators, namely, Senator Mike Johanns, in his letter to you dated October 14, 2010 in which he said “As you may know, I have repeatedly expressed concern that regulatory actions related to this permit application be executed such that maximum care is taken to safeguard the Ogallala Aquifer, an irreplaceable natural resource in the state of Nebraska.”

Senator Ben Nelson, said of his July 2, 2010 meeting with US Department of State Under Secretary William Burns, “Considering the importance of the Ogallala Aquifer and the Sandhills to Nebraska’s economic and agricultural livelihood, I urged Secretary Burns to take full account of concerns raised by a number of Nebraskans about safety issues and the environmental impact surrounding the oil pipeline. With the ongoing tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, federal regulators must take every precaution before proceeding with this new pipeline project.”

We urge the State Department to fully explore the safety and siting of the proposed pipeline, specifically, we agree with Senator Johanns’ request for a Supplemental Impact Statement due to the inadequacies in the current Statement (Oct 21, 2010)  and we strongly agree with Senator Johanns in urging the State Department to consider a route that avoids the Sandhills and minimizes exposure to the Aquifer (Oct 14, 2010).

Thank you for your attention to our concerns.

Sincerely,

Sen. Ken Haar, District 21
Sen. Dave Pankonin, District 2
Sen. Pete Pirsch, District 4
Sen. Brenda Council, District 11
Sen. Tanya Cook, District 13
Sen. Lydia Brasch, District 16
Sen. Dave Bloomfield, District 17
Sen. Brad Ashford, District 20
Sen. Greg Adams, District 24
Sen. Kathy Campbell, District 25
Sen. Amanda McGill, District 26
Sen. Colby Coash, District 27
Sen. Bill Avery, District 28
Sen. Tony Fulton, District 29
Sen. Rich Pahls, District 31
Sen. Dennis Utter, District 33
Sen. Annette Dubas, District 34
Sen. Mike Gloor, District 35
Sen. Galen Hadley, District 37
Sen. Kate Sullivan, District 41
Sen. Danielle Conrad, District 46

cc: U.S. Senator Ben Nelson, U.S. Senator Mike Johanns, TransCanada Corporation

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