Who’s in charge of “siting” Keystone pipeline?
March 31st, 2011
Omaha, NE – Environmentalists are calling attention to a memo stating Nebraska has some authority to regulate oil pipelines, including the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. But, it comes down to what the word â€œsitingâ€™ means.
The environmental group, Bold Nebraska, called a press conference in Lincoln Wednesday, to announce an â€œunearthed memoâ€ addressed to Nebraska Congressman Lee Terry from the Congressional Research Service. The memo, dated September 20, 2010, says while the U.S. State Department must approve the construction of a pipeline that transports oil across international borders â€“ like Keystone â€“ the federal government canâ€™t approve the â€œsitingâ€ of the pipeline. That falls to the states.
John Hansen, the President of the Nebraska Farmers Union says the memo clearly states Nebraska has the power to re-route the Keystone pipeline, which would cross over the fragile Ogallala aquifer in the Nebraska Sandhills.
â€œIt cannot be more clear that the state of Nebraska obviously has the authority,â€ Hansen said. â€œSo weâ€™re asking them to do that which is in the stateâ€™s own best interest to do.â€
The Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee State Senator Chris Langemeier of Schuyler said in a late afternoon interview the memo is â€œnothing new.â€ But, he said it does not clearly say Nebraska has authority to route the pipeline, saying the word â€œsitingâ€ could refer to the pipeâ€™s construction. The memo is vague, he said, and thereâ€™s no way to find out what exactly that means. Senator Annette Dubas of Fullerton agreed itâ€™s a gray area. Ultimately, she said she believes the state does have the authority to regulate the pipeline, but thereâ€™s no agency or rules in place to make that happen.
â€œWithout any statutory authority, we donâ€™t have any ability to exercise that right or any other right, whatever it may be,â€ she said, â€œbecause we just have nothing in statute that gives us the ability to do that. We would need some type of legislation in order to take advantage of the rights theyâ€™re telling us we have.â€
Dubas introduced a bill that would create a state agency to regulate the pipeline, but thatâ€™s stuck in committee. In an interview with NET News earlier this month, in which the Congressional Research Service memo was cited, Dubas said there has been debate over where responsibility should ultimately fall, and that has tied up progress.
â€œItâ€™s kind of like thisâ€¦ itâ€™s not in my jurisdiction, itâ€™s in your jurisdiction, no, no, itâ€™s not in my jurisdiction, itâ€™s in yourâ€¦ so everybodyâ€™s just kind of, okay, weâ€™re not exactly sure whatâ€™s going on here.â€
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