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(Updated) Unearthed Federal Memo Confirms State Can Regulate Oil Pipelines

Today Nebraska groups presented members of the press community with a recently uncovered memo that proves, yet again, Nebraska does indeed have a role, right and duty to decide on oil pipeline routes, eminent domain and several other aspects of oil pipelines.  

Nebraska elected officials have had this memo, and this proof of the states role in regulating oil pipelines, since September 2010 and yet have continued to say our state has no role in pipeline routing, eminent domain and other areas of pipeline safety regulations.

Nebraska Farmers Union, Nebraska Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Bold Nebraska and Nebraska Wildlife Federation were all present today to review not only the Congressional Memo but also additional materials that show how our state elected officials can and should be taking action now to protect our land and water.

Randy Thompson, a landowner who has been threatned by TransCanada with eminent domain, was also at the press event.

The materials we gave to the press are below and we encourage all of the Bold supporters to download them and then call your State Senator and Gov. Heineman telling them NOW is the time to act.  We not only must pass all three bills in front of the Natural Resources Committee, we also need to get some regulations passed on how pipelines get routed (e.g. don’t allow it to go through the Sandhills).

Congressional Memo and Background Information

Congressional Memo on role of state vs federal regulations and responsibility of oil pipelines, 9/20/2010: download PDF (pg 5 of the memo outlines state’s authority to route the pipeline and how Nebraska’s eminent domain law gives TransCanada authority to take Nebraskans’ land)

Packet of background information for press roundtable, 3/30/2011: download PDF

Audio transcript of press roundtable: http://tinyurl.com/3u4v2k2

Audio transcript of Farmers Union Conference where TransCanada makes it clear if Nebraska does pass regulations, they will follow them: download audio clip

Routing the pipeline out of the Sandhills is NOT up to Sec. Clinton, its up to our state elected officials.  Nebraska has a very clear role and responsibility to regulate and route oil pipelines within our state borders.  State officials have all the information they need, its now time to lead and act to protect our water, economic activity and landowners. 

Update, 3/30, 8:30pm: Senator Langemeier is now saying that he’s not sure what “routing” and “siting” mean.  His comments in the OWH and LJS are flat out not true, and we ask that he correct the record.  Our state has the authority to decide on pipeline routes.  It’s crystal clear, and it’s not too late for the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

The depth of the pipeline is a matter of safety specifically regulated by PHMSA regulation.  As such, a state may not regulate depth, and none of the pipeline groups have even brought up depth.  States do know what siting means because it is determined by state law.  Montana regulations require considerarion of three routes within Montana and the state can choose any one of the three or modify a route to minimize impacts.

The state government has plenty of power to determine the appropriate route.  It’s just that our elecetd officials do not seem to have the political will to make these chnages.  Do TransCanada’s lobbying efforts hold more power than Nebraska’s safety and landowners’ concerns?  Right now it seems that way, but we hope the State Unicameral and Gov. Heineman prove us wrong.

ACTION: Call Sen. Langemeier or email his office (402-471-2719, clangemeier@leg.ne.gov), tell him to get his facts straight.  The Natural Resources Committee has power to do the following and they need to exercise their duty now!

  • Siting and routing of oil pipelines
  • Easement and eminent domain process and terms
  • Easement abandonment
  • Emergency response planning
  • Liability for spills
  • Bonding for road construction and/or repair
  • Regulation of neighboring land uses

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BOLD Nebraska
208 S. Burlington Ave., Ste 103, Box 325, Hastings, NE 68901