Pipeline proposals poised for final passage

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November 20, 2011 - 6:00pm

The Nebraska Legislature is set to give final approval tomorrow (Tuesday) to two bills regulating the location of oil pipelines. After that, attention will turn to the rerouting of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

One of the two bills up for a final vote would apply to TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline, although to avoid being unconstitutional "special legislation," it isn't limited to that. Instead, it says the state of Nebraska may collaborate with the federal government on supplemental environmental impact statements on any oil pipelines proposed to pass through the state. It also requires the governor to indicate whether he approves a new route.

Nebraska promised TransCanada an expedited review of a new route the company says it will proposed to avoid the Sandhills, where there was concern over damage to the land and the shallow water table from construction and possible leaks.

The other bill specifically says it does not apply to projects for which companies have already applied for a permit, like the Keystone XL. It would give the Nebraska Public Service Commission authority to approve or disapprove routes in the future, taking into account considerations including their impact on natural resources.

Both bills have advanced through two rounds of voting with no opposition, and Gov. Dave Heineman has scheduled a signing ceremony for 9:30 Tuesday morning.

Pipeline critics have scheduled a press conference after that. Some have declared a victory by keeping the pipeline out of the Sandhills, but expressed concern over whether potential environmental risks will simply be shifted elsewhere. At the national level, environmental groups continue to oppose the pipeline no matter what the route, citing concerns about carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, labor and business groups continue their support on grounds of jobs and energy security. The State Department has said it will reach a final decision on a permit sometime after the 2012 election.




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