The North Platte (Nebraska) Telegraph reports, “Nebraska could order the rerouting of large, crude-oil pipelines (including the Keystone XL pipeline) to protect ‘unusually sensitive groundwater areas’ and avoid economic damage to its multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry, under a proposal introduced Tuesday. The bill, drafted by State Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton, is the first of a handful of proposals expected to be heard during a (3-week) session focusing on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The session’s key issue, as framed by Gov. Dave Heineman, is to determine whether a legal, constitutional way can be found to detour the 36-inch, high-pressure, crude-oil pipeline around the ecologically fragile Sandhills and some of the richest portions of the Ogallala Aquifer.”
“Dubas’ bill has been the most anticipated, since it holds out the possibility of a route change, which has been advocated by Gov. Heineman, U.S. Sens. Mike Johanns and Ben Nelson, and U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, among others. …The act would require the Nebraska Public Service Commission to review major crude-oil pipeline proposals. …Its review would determine whether a project is in the public interest; whether it would harm natural resources, including areas of abundant groundwater; and whether it would protect ‘property rights, aesthetic values and economic interests’. A pipeline developer would need a permit from the commission in order to use eminent domain to obtain right-of-way for a project. Without such authority, a project would likely be doomed. The bill requires the state to make a decision on a pipeline project within eight months.”
“TransCanada (the company that would build Keystone XL) has contended that if new state regulations forced a new pipeline route, they would kill the Keystone XL project because the company would have to undergo an entirely new federal environmental review. That could last three years and would force TransCanada to default on a 2014 deadline to deliver oil to its refinery customers, officials have said. …State Department officials declined to say whether the entire project would have to be reviewed again if only a portion of the pipeline route changed.”
Bloomberg has reported, “Public hearings on bills that make it through committee review will begin Nov. 7, Senator Chris Langemeier said. The governor has said he expects the session to conclude before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday Nov. 24. …Pipeline legislation designed to take effect immediately would require approval by a two-thirds majority, or 33 of the 49 senators in Nebraska’s non-partisan, one-house legislature.”
Postmedia News reports, “President Barack Obama (in an interview with a Nebraska television station) on Tuesday suggested it could be ‘several months’ before he decides whether to approve (the) Keystone XL pipeline — and said environmental concerns would weigh just as significantly in his ruling as U.S. energy security or economic growth. …The issue is particularly hot in Nebraska because the pipeline would cross the state’s eco-sensitive Sand Hills and the vast Ogallala Aquifer, which provides more than 80 per cent of the state’s water for drinking and irrigation. …’Folks in Nebraska obviously would be directly impacted. And so we want to make sure that we are taking the long view on these issues,’ Obama (said). ‘I think folks in Nebraska, like all across the country, aren’t going to say to themselves, ‘We’ll take a few thousand jobs if it means that our kids are potentially drinking water that would damage their health,’ or if rich land that is so important to agriculture in Nebraska ends up being adversely affected.'”
Take Action! On October 26, the Council of Canadians launched an e-mail campaign so that Canadians can send a message to all 49 members of the Nebraska legislature asking them to reject the currently proposed route of the 700,000 barrels-a-day Keystone XL pipeline across the Sand Hills and over the Ogallala aquifer. The action alert message also notes, “We understand that our ambassador to the United States has lobbied Governor Heineman to support Keystone XL, as has our consul-general based in Minneapolis. We want you to know that they do not speak for all Canadians.” To send your message to the Nebraska legislature, please go to http://canadians.org/action/2011/nebraska-keystoneXL.html.
The Postmedia News article noted above also notes, “Obama has been greeted by anti-pipeline protesters at several of his recent speeches, and activists are planning another major demonstration on Sunday at the White House.” Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and I will be in Washington, DC on Sunday to participate in the #Surround action. More on that at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=11610.