There's no written agreement with TransCanada that its Keystone XL pipeline will avoid the Sandhills. But the company's public statements and a map it agreed to should ensure that result, Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood told his fellow lawmakers Friday.
There was very little debate before the Legislature gave second round approval to a bill authorizing an environmental review of a new route that will be proposed for the Keystone XL pipeline. What was said aimed at clarifying what TransCanada has promised, and what the Legislature intends. Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm asked Flood what Haar said a lot of Nebraskans were wondering. "Since there's no legal contract with TransCanada to assure they'll move the pipeline out of the Sandhills, or a description of what that move means, how are you -- the speaker -- or our state going to enforce the agreement to move the pipeline out of the Sandhills?" Haar said.
Flood acknowledged he didn't have anything in writing. Individual senators can't enter into signed agreements for the state. "There's never been a written agreement. We're in the wrong branch of government to execute written agreements," he said. But he said TransCanada had made a public commitment. "As you know TransCanada stood up before the state of Nebraska through members of the media and did voluntarily acknowledge that they agreed to move the route of the Keystone XL out of the Sandhills," Flood declared.
Flood was referring to statements like one by TransCanada's president for energy and oil pipelines Alex Pourbaix, made Monday night after Flood brokered an agreement on new legislation. "Today's legislation, if passed, will ensure that a pipeline route will be developed in Nebraska that will avoid the Sandhills and Nebraskans will play a key role in determining its ultimate location," Pourbaix said. "We are excited about these upcoming discussions that will take place as we finalize the new route around the Sandhills."
Flood said there is also another level of assurance, because the legislation "clearly gives the governor of this state the ability to authorize or consent to or agree to any route that is sent to the State Department in this situation.
"I have to believe that given the discussion that we've had in the state of Nebraska and certainly given the governor's prior comments about wanting the route moved out of the Sandhills, that that will be accomplished," Flood added.
Multiple sources including Nebraskans for Jobs and Energy Independence
Map of Sandhills and former Keystone XL route
Haar also asked who was defining the Sandhills area. Flood said TransCanada had provided a senators and pipeline critics a map that seemed consistent with other maps of the area.