Update 3/13, 11am: The Natural Resources Committee voted out Sen. Smith’s bill that gives TransCanada special treatment, leaves landowners to fight to protect their property rights and violates Nebraska’s constitution. Our press release is below. Save March 30th for a citizen action to protest LB 1161.

Bought Off by TransCanada, Forgotten Nebraska Roots

The Natural Resources latest move to give TransCanada everything they ask for is another example of how our Unicameral is simply bought and paid for by big oil and how they have forgotten their Nebraska roots.

This morning the Natural Resources Committee, on a 6-2 vote, advanced Sen. Smith’s bill that provides special legislation for one company–TransCanada. The bill requires the Department of Environmental Quality, without any guidance from federal agencies like the US State Department, to review routes for a pipeline that does not exist.

What is very much alive though is a political talking point for big oil corporations and politicians who are owned by them that stretches the truth beyond reason on how the TransCanada pipeline will solve all job, economic and high gas price issues.

Because TransCanada’s permit was denied and because they have not resubmitted an application to the State Department, TransCanada’s pipeline does not exist and therefore Nebraska should not spend one more dime on this pipeline until TransCanada does their due diligence and submits their new federal application.

Further, this bill is unconstitutional because it is special legislation for one company and it grants eminent domain authority almost immediately to TransCanada rather then the current law which requires them to get their federal permit before they can start seizing private Nebraska land through eminent domain.

Bold Nebraska and allied groups will plan a protest on March 30th in Lincoln. More details will be given as the date gets closer. Citizens can email info@boldnebraska.org to participate in the protest.

Quote from Ken Winston, Nebraska Sierra Club:

“The vote by a majority of the Natural Resources Committee to advance LB 1161 disregarded the Nebraska Constitution, the rights of Nebraska landowners and the wishes of all the Nebraska citizens who testified at the committee hearing. The committee had been given a legal memo before the vote that raises serious questions about the constitutionality of LB 1161, but disregarded that opinion. They had heard testimony from landowners that the rights of Nebraska landowners needed to be strengthened against eminent domain threats by private pipeline companies, yet they advanced this bill that weakens landowner rights. And every Nebraska citizen who testified on LB 1161 opposed it, yet the majority of the Committee ignored their testimony.”

Quote from Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska:

“Most of the Natural Resources Committee can no longer say they represent the people of Nebraska and can no longer say they are looking out for our state’s natural resources. Senator Smith and those that voted to advance his bill care about their “duty” to TransCanada and have forgotten about their Nebraska roots and responsibility to our state’s constitution. Citizens will fight to block LB 1161 and continue to protect our water and property rights from this risky export pipeline.”

Violation of Nebraska Constitution (Neb. Const. Art. III § 18):
“The Legislature shall not pass local or special laws in any of the following cases, that is to say… Granting to any corporation, association, or individual any special or exclusive privileges, immunity, or franchise whatever; Provided, that notwithstanding any other provisions of this Constitution, the Legislature shall have authority to separately define and classify loans and installment sales, to establish maximum rates within classifications of loans or installment sales which it establishes, and to regulate with respect thereto. In all other cases where a general law can be made applicable, no special law shall be enacted.”

+++original post from 3/12+++

Looks like the Natural Resources Committee will go into “executive session” tomorrow to discuss and potentially vote out LB 1161, Sen. Smith’s “special deal for TransCanada” bill. The bill gets worse by the day, it now gives TransCanada eminent domain authority BEFORE they get a federal permit for their project. 

Email the Natural Resources Committee, tell them you oppose LB 1161, that we already have the law in place for TransCanada and any other oil pipeline company that wants their pipeline route reviewed. We need to strengthen eminent domain for citizens, not weaken it!

Natural Resource Committee Members (Click here to send the entire commitee an email):
Chris Langemeier, Chairperson clangemeier@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2719
Jim Smith, jsmith@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2730
Ken Schilz, Vice-chair kschliz@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2616
Annette Dubas, adubas@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2630
Tom Carlson, tcarlson@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2732
Mark Christensen, mchristensen@leg.ne.gov  402-471-2805
Beau McCoy, bmccoy@leg.ne.gov 402-471-2885
Ken Haar, khaar@leg.ne.gov 402-471-2673

More reasons LB 1161 is bad public policy:

  • It would make it easier for TransCanada to exercise eminent domain. Given TransCanada’s abuses of this authority by threateningNebraska landowners with the use of eminent domain without a permit, the law should make it more difficult for private pipeline companies to exercise eminent domain.

  • LB 1161 is probably unconstitutional special legislation. No other company would be able to use its provisions, which creates a closed class in violation of the Nebraska Constitution.

  • It is unnecessary. LB 1 created a process to determine the route of oil pipelines through Nebraska’s Public Service Commission which they could use.

  • Nebraska taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for TransCanada’s review of a proposed route. They spent $530,000 lobbying the Legislature in the special session and another $1.3 million lobbying Congress last year. TransCanada can clearly afford to pay for their pipeline review. The State has pressing needs for the use of its taxpayer dollars, like paying for teachers and books.

  • Even if this bill passes and the Nebraska DEQ certifies a route, the State Department, since they have no Memorandum of Understanding with DEQ laying out what they expect in an EIS could turn around and say the DEQ’s route certification is not sufficient and we would have to go through this process all over again.