Neb. lawmakers open session devoted to pipelineLINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers began a special session Tuesday to consider new oil pipeline regulations due to concerns about a plan to build a line through the state that would carry crude oil from Canada to Texas.
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers began a special session Tuesday to consider new oil pipeline regulations due to concerns about a plan to build a line through the state that would carry crude oil from Canada to Texas.
Although conservatives typically supportive of energy companies dominate Nebraska politics, many legislators and Republican Gov. Dave Heineman have expressed concern about the planned Keystone XL pipeline's route through the Ogallala aquifer.
Last week, Heineman called the session to consider legislation giving the state more control over the pipeline route.
The session could run through Thanksgiving.
TransCanada, the pipeline's Canadian-based developer, said the project will reduce U.S. dependence on oil from other nations. But a coalition of environmentalists, land owners, and state lawmakers fear the pipeline could leak and contaminate the Ogallala aquifer.
Some legislators have called for changing state law to give Nebraska officials more control over the pipeline's route, but it's unclear whether lawmakers can clear the legal and political hurdles to pass such legislation. Any law that tries to reroute the pipeline would likely face a court challenge from TransCanada or other states that stand to benefit from tax revenue the project would generate.
The $7 billion, 1,700-mile pipeline would carry oil derived from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas. The pipeline would travel through Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.
The project has undergone a three-year federal review and is waiting for the U.S. State Department to approve or deny a permit that would allow construction to proceed.
Lawyers for TransCanada and pipeline opponents have submitted conflicting legal briefs over the state's power to control the pipeline.
The State Department has authority because the pipeline crosses an international boundary, and federal courts have upheld Congress' authority to regulate oil pipeline safety.
Pipeline opponents argue that states can assert authority over pipeline routes to project other state interests, such as land use or maintaining Nebraska's cultural identity.