Senator pushes for action on pipeline

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March 11th, 2011

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Lincoln, NE – Critics of a proposed oil pipeline through the Sandhills say they’re disappointed that it looks like senators won’t act this year on proposals to regulate such projects.

The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline will cut through Nebraska, and has sparked numerous protests (Photo credit Nebraska Watchdog)

The reaction follows Wednesday’s vote by the Natural Resources Committee against a proposal by Senator Kate Sullivan of Cedar Rapids. That proposal would have held pipeline companies strictly liable for damages if a pipeline leaks. Senators opposed to the idea said it would be unfair to the pipeline company if the leak were caused by an accidental damage or sabotage that wasn’t the company’s fault. But in an interview with NET News, Sullivan defended the strict liability standard.

“If we didn’t have that clause in there, and the person who did that damage didn’t have the resources, what happens to the pipeline? What happens to the landowner?” she asked. “Quite frankly, I think the state of Nebraska had the potential to be on the hook for that. Or at the very least the landowner is just sitting there with terrible damage to his or her land.”

“We have potential damage to the aquifer, and nobody’s taking responsibility for it.”

Two other senators have pipeline regulatory bills in the same committee. But only Sullivan named one of them her personal priority. That essentially guarantees a bill will be debated by the full Legislature, but only if it makes it out of committee. Senators say the fact that the Natural Resources Committee voted 5 to 2 against Sullivan’s own amendments to the pipeline bill means it won’t come out this year, even though it hasn’t officially been killed. Sullivan says she understands committee members’ attitudes, but…

“Sometimes when it’s not in your backyard,” she said, “there’s a feeling ‘I’ve got too many other things to deal with.’ Secondly, they say ‘Well it’s by and large a federal issue, and they will provide the necessary oversight.’ The fact remains, though, that for those of us whose districts are impacted – and mine is impacted a lot – I’ve got a lot of concern on the part of my constituents and I just felt bound to continue to work on this.”

One thing Sullivan says she won’t do is try to get the full Legislature to pull the bill out of committee so it can be debated on the floor.

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