The North Bend Eagle


 

Unicameral special session dealing with oil pipeline

by State Senator Charlie Janssen, District 15
Released 11/5/11

Five substantive bills were introduced during the bill introduction
period of the special legislative session on oil pipeline siting this
month.

Before offering a brief summary of these bills, I wanted to address
two questions that have been asked repeatedly to me about the Keystone
XL pipeline proposal.

Several people and interest groups have demanded that the Nebraska
Unicameral “stop the pipeline.” Even if there was 100 percent consensus among
all 1,826,000 Nebraskans that none of us want the Keystone XL pipeline
to run thorough our state, it is still not within the Nebraska
Unicameral's power to “stop the pipeline.”

Nebraska does have the power to enact pipeline siting legislation.
Some states have chosen to do so.

But any future laws in Nebraska cannot prohibit interstate pipelines outright.

Conditions for construction and siting are permissible if they are
reasonable and fair, but the United States Constitution prohibits
states from unduly inhibiting commerce “with foreign Nations, among
the several States, and with the Indian tribes.” (U.S. Constitution –
Art.1, Sec. 8, Cl. 3).

We will be examining in great detail the proposed bills that would
create Nebraska siting legislation regarding oil pipelines in the
coming weeks. Senators will have to keep in mind that any future laws
must be reasonable and fair to interstate and intrastate commercial
activities.

If legislation that we may pass is not reasonable and fair to
intrastate and interstate commerce, we will quickly be sued, will
likely lose, and may be forced to compensate the parties that any new
law would harm.

Several people have also asked me why Nebraska doesn't just build an
oil refinery at the northern border of our state so that another oil
pipeline does not cross Nebraska.

This idea has been explored by several businesses and found by
refiners to not be profitable at present in Nebraska. There are plans
to build a refinery in Elk Point, South Dakota currently. This
refinery would be the first newly constructed refinery since the 1970s
in the United States of America. The proposal has been in the works
for several years and the company has met resistance at every step in
the process from federal, state, and local interest groups. It is my
understanding that the north central United States does not have the
market for additional refineries at this time. Some have even argued
that the Elk Point project may be short-lived depending on the price
of gasoline in the future. I do not see in the near term a business
being able to make a Nebraska refinery project work.

Regarding the bills pending in the special session, three create
processes where a state commission or official would review oil
pipeline proposals, one seeks to change eminent domain provisions for
pipelines, and one requires a company to post a $500 million bond for
any new project.

LB 1, titled the Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act, would establish an
application process for the routing of a major pipeline in Nebraska.
The Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC) would be responsible for
reviewing these applications. Some of you may know that the PSC is a
statewide, elected, constitutionally-created commission that presently
regulates railroads, transportation and telecommunications companies,
natural gas pipelines, grain warehouses, manufactured homes, and
recreational vehicles. LB 1 would add major oil pipelines to the
commission’s jurisdiction. The PSC would be responsible for holding
public hearings regarding siting proposals, evaluating the proposals,
and ultimately approving or denying applications.

LB 4, titled the Oil Pipeline Route Certification Act, would give the
Governor the authority to approve oil pipeline routes. The Governor
would be advised of the merits of potential oil pipeline routes by a
panel of experts that would include the Lieutenant Governor,
representatives of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the
Department of Natural Resources, the Game and Parks Commission, the
Public Service Commission, and local authorities from across the
state. Public hearings would occur. The Governor would then determine
whether or not to certify any proposed routes.

LB 5, titled the Oil Pipeline Certificate of Authorization Act, would
require the PSC to evaluate proposed oil pipelines. Permission would
be denied for any pipeline that wishes to cross certain areas of the
state that are listed in the bill.

LB 3 would change provisions of current eminent domain laws regarding
pipelines. Eminent domain and easement authority would not be given to
a company until it had received prior approval from any controlling
federal or state authority with jurisdiction over oil pipelines.

LB 6 would require a pipeline company operating in Nebraska to file
proof of a $500 million indemnity bond with the Nebraska Secretary of
State before they could commence its project.

I invite you to read these bills in their entirety if interested. All
can be found at the Legislature's website
(www.nebraskalegislature.gov).

I look forward to listening to public hearing testimony on each of
these proposals on November 7, 8 and 9. All hearings will be streamcasted
on the web. There are many complicated federal and state
constitutional issues that we must address. Input from the hearings
will be helpful as we sort them all out.

During the special session we are also permitted to submit honorary
legislative resolutions. It was my privilege to submit Legislative
Resolution 6 to honor Skip Edwards and his remarkable life. Skip was a
tireless promoter of Fremont and Dodge County. As councilman, mayor,
businessman, and volunteer, he mentored countless numbers of people in
our area. He was a great family man and a pillar of the community. He
will be missed and the Legislature expresses and extends its sympathy
and condolences to the Edwards family.

I also was privileged to submit Legislative Resolution 7 to honor the
Logan View Raiders marching band. The Raiders were named the champions
of Class C at the 2011 Nebraska State Bandmasters Association State
Marching Contest. As a Raider alumnus, I was pleased to see the
Legislature honor and congratulate the team for their outstanding
performance.

There is also much interest in Legislative Resolution 8. It would urge
the United States Postal Service to reconsider its plan to close rural
post offices in Nebraska. This resolution has been referred to the
Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee. I am a member of
the Government Committee and look forward to offering support to this
measure.

Please continue to share your thoughts with me on these issues or any
other state matters of interest to you. I can be reached at
402-471-2625, cjanssen@leg.ne.gov, or District 15, State Capitol,
Lincoln, NE 68509.

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