Heineman blasts special session idea on pipeline

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August 4th, 2011

Lincoln, NE – Governor Dave Heineman is blasting a suggestion for a special legislative session to steer an oil pipeline away from the Sandhills. But the state senator who raised the idea says it’s worth pursuing.

Senator Ken Haar of Malcolm raised the idea of a special session to give the state siting authority over pipelines. Haar notes that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to decide whether or not to permit the proposed TransCanada pipeline to carry tar sands oil across the border by the end of the year.

Gov. Heineman said approval of the pipeline should be decided at the federal level. (Photo courtesy State of Nebraska)

“So I think the end of this year is really a deadline time,” Haar said. “Unless of course she says no, then we have time. But once TransCanada starts building the pipeline through the Sandhills, it’s going to be too late for us to pass any kind of legislation.”

Asked about the idea, Governor Dave Heineman said if senators wanted siting legislation, they should have attempted it during the regular session, but there wasn’t enough support, and he doesn’t think that’s changed. And the Republican governor suggested pipeline critics should concentrate their energy on persuading Democrats at the federal level.
“Ask Sen. Ben Nelson to call President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton and deny the permit,” Heineman said. “It would end right there. It would be over.”

Sen. Ken Haar of Malcolm wants a special session to give the state clear authority to determine the route of the pipeline. (Photo courtesy Nebraska Legislature)

Haar, a Democrat, said that’s not his goal.

“That’s a separate argument, should we have a pipeline at all,” Haar said. “And I’m saying I’m not against the pipeline, I’m against where they’re trying to put it. Two separate issues.”

Heineman said he agrees a route that avoids the Sandhills would be preferable.

“I think I’ve made it abundantly clear in a number of comments over the past five or six months that there is a better preferred route than going over the Ogallala Aquifer,” Heineman said. “But I don’t think this Democrat president is listening to this Republican governor.”

Heineman wrote Secretary Clinton a letter last October expressing concern that the pipeline could contaminate the aquifer. He said he hasn’t decided whether he or anyone from his administration will testify at hearings the State Department will hold in Nebraska.

Meanwhile, Harr said he will wait a month or two before deciding whether to launch a formal attempt at a special session. The governor calls special sessions, but Nebraska law allows senators to initiate the process session if two-thirds of them agree. Legislative Clerk Patrick O’Donnell said that law has never been used.

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