A follow-up to my report of hearings before the Natural Resources Committee of the Nebraska legislature, with good news and bad news.
On November 7, the committee began hearings on several bills that would in the future regulate large pipelines. Past efforts have been defeated and is it fair to say that Transcanada's serious lobbying and palsy-walsy glad-to-meetcha efforts might have been instrumental in that? Perchance? At any rate, the special session of the legislature had been called only days or weeks before--again, due to pressure but this pressure on the governor came from the people of Nebraska. Go, Big Red! Because the issue had been raised in the past, there were several bills ready to consider. Senator Annette DuBas (pronounced "doo-BOSS") submitted LB1, which had been carefully vetted for constitutional/legal issues, and stood a good chance of being effective, but a poor chance of getting out of committee, since five of the eight members are generally disinclined toward the long view, and usually vote for the quick bucks. Natural Resources Committee, yes. Another was ideal but had about a wiener dog's chance in an altercation with a dobermann. (Senator Haar's bill, which deal with the whole issue forthrightly and truthfully and thoroughly.) Another bill was a hastily written retaliation on the governor for having called the special session: it assigned the governor and a special panel to regulate pipelines in the future. Giving the guv the old hotfoot, it seems.
Despite everything, the committee agreed to pass LB1 on to the legislature for debate, four of the opposition gang agreeing and one (Senator Smith) just flat out refusing to go along with the idea.
Meanwhile, Obama announced his decision to send the federal permit application back for examination of conflict of interest. His stance said he would make the final decision personally, and that Transcanada should "consider an alternate route." The President acknowledged that he understood the concerns of Nebraskans when he said job creation should never be at the expense of the health and future of tomorrow's families.
So BOLD Nebraskans (our anti-pipeline loose alliance) took up the charge of appearing and lobbying for the legislative debate the following Monday, November 14. Imagine everyone's surprise when the speaker of the house announced that he had made contact with Transcanada, and THEY AGREED TO REROUTE THE PIPELINE 'OUT OF' THE SANDHILLS!! Elation and jubilation. Whoops: well, they "agreed" to move it from the Ogallala Formation in the sandhills which is the area in which the most danger would be posed to the High Plains Aquifer. That's not quite "out of the sandhills." AND Speaker Michael Flood announced that part of "the deal" would be an offer by Nebraska to pay TWO MILLION dollars of anticipated costs of a new Environmental Impact Statement.
I personally would have voted against this deal were I a senator. I think they were going to have to move it
anyway because of the feds (and here I assume they've looked at the GOP Candidate Sideshow and decided Obama does have a pretty good reelection chance), and they knew it. What better move than to acquiesce and do the thing they had flat out refused to consider only a month or two earlier in meetings with key state senators!!
And, moreover, Senator Dubas's bill passed. Amended and lashed, no doubt. But the representative from my district, Sen Karpisek, had already expressed the sentiments of most of us--i.e., in favor of regulation. Transcanada is "exempt" from this bill, however. Another little piece of candy for the corporates!
But good work: the point-person for BOLD Nebraska is Jane Kleeb, and she has my total gratitude and admiration. Especially now that I've seen the level of hatred, disrespect and contempt displayed publicly by at least one of the representatives to Nebraska's unique unicameral. I'm thinking of moving to his district so I can campaign against him.