Governor Heineman needs a lesson in strong leadership.

Recently, at the Farmers Union Convention in Grand Island, the Governor spoke to farmers and then opened the room up to questions from the audience.  I was at the meeting to visit with farmers and to listen to the panel about the pipeline.  So, when Heineman asked for questions, I raised my hand.

I posed a very basic question, one based on science and safety…

Would Governor Heineman back up Senator Johanns by also asking Secretary Clinton to conduct an additional study regarding the proposed TransCanada pipeline in regards to the Sandhills and Ogallala Aquifer since the oil carried in the pipeline is very different than traditional crude oil and is pumped at very high pressure?

Here is what he said…

Despite the fact that Heineman acts less like a governor and more like the Chair of the Nebraska Republican Party, what he really shows is how weak of a leader he is.  Imagine if you were governor of our state: wouldn’t you be demanding from President Obama and Secretary Clinton additional studies on the most precious resources we have?

Heineman goes on to whine to reporters later in the day that pipeline opponents are interjecting politics.  Heineman says this at the same time he is telling me to go “talk to your President, you voted for him” and “go talk to your Secretary of State” because “you know her better and went to a conference with her.” I would like to know when that was since its not even true.  Is Heineman really saying I somehow have more power than him in regards to relationships with the President and Secretary of State? 

Who tells a constituent to do that?  What governor uses that tone?  It turns out that Heineman does, and it’s not just with me.  We are told that he also uses that tone and bullying tactic, thinking it shows his strength, to school administrators and doctors.  Well, those are the two groups who’ve told us stories, maybe there are others as well.

Nebraska’s number one economic driver is agriculture.  Agriculture takes water.  Our largest source of water is the Ogallala Aquifer.  Cattle are another big source of revenue for Nebraska. You find plenty of cattle in the Sandhills.  And another source of revenue in our state is tourism — including hunting, fishing and of course the world-famous annual migration of sandhill cranes.  The TransCanada pipeline puts all of this at risk.

So why would our state leader — Governor Heineman — not be doing everything in his power to protect our homes, our land, our water and our economic activity?

Heineman is flat out lying by saying he does not have a role in the pipeline and that it is all a federal decision.  It’s funny how that logic does not stop him from being involved in immigration issues.  

State and local governments CAN regulate many things when it comes to oil pipelines.  If Heineman fails to do so, perhaps more counties like York will start doing the job themselves.  

Here is a short list of the areas states have jurisdiction over, not the federal government.  Next week we will also list what other states like Kansas and Montana have already passed to protect their states.

  • Siting and routing of pipelines
  • Eminent domain process and terms
  • Easement abandonment
  • Emergency response planning
  • Liability for spills
  • Regulation of neighboring land uses

The question the federal government — specifically Secretary Clinton — needs to ask is if the pipeline is in the nation’s interest.  If she determines it is, then she will grant the permit to allow TransCanada to start building.  But that is just the beginning of the process.  There are many other areas on a STATE level that can be regulated for safety and fairness to landowners.

Heineman likes to portray himself as strong.  It’s too bad that in reality, he is very, very weak.  He can attack me and Bold Nebraska all he wants.  He can tell me I should go to Obama and Clinton with my genuine concerns.  None of that rhetoric protects our land and water.

Nebraskans are pretty damn crystal clear that even if they support the pipeline, they want stronger state laws to protect our homes and resources. Governor Heineman, this is not a “liberal” issue any more than it is a “conservative” issue.  This is about taking responsibility for what folks elected you to do — lead and protect Nebraska.