Who’s in charge of “siting” Keystone pipeline?


March 31st, 2011

Listen Now

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 “siting’ means.

Environmentalists say Nebraska clearly has the authority to re-route the Keystone XL pipeline, which is set to cross the fragile Ogallala aquifer (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

The environmental group, Bold Nebraska, called a press conference in Lincoln Wednesday, to announce an “unearthed memo” 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 – like Keystone – the federal government can’t approve the “siting” 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.

“It cannot be more clear that the state of Nebraska obviously has the authority,” Hansen said. “So we’re asking them to do that which is in the state’s own best interest to do.”

The Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee State Senator Chris Langemeier of Schuyler said in a late afternoon interview the memo is “nothing new.” But, he said it does not clearly say Nebraska has authority to route the pipeline, saying the word “siting” could refer to the pipe’s construction. The memo is vague, he said, and there’s no way to find out what exactly that means. Senator Annette Dubas of Fullerton agreed it’s a gray area. Ultimately, she said she believes the state does have the authority to regulate the pipeline, but there’s no agency or rules in place to make that happen.

“Without any statutory authority, we don’t have any ability to exercise that right or any other right, whatever it may be,” she said, “because 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 they’re telling us we have.”
Dubas introduced a bill that would create a state agency to regulate the pipeline, but that’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.

“It’s kind of like this… it’s not in my jurisdiction, it’s in your jurisdiction, no, no, it’s not in my jurisdiction, it’s in your… so everybody’s just kind of, okay, we’re not exactly sure what’s going on here.”

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