WASHINGTON — Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman's announcement of a special session about the Keystone XL pipeline came as welcome news to Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.
Nelson has criticized Heineman for not being more aggressive in seeking to control the pipeline's route, while the governor has questioned his authority to do so.
"I am glad the governor has changed his mind and now agrees with the Congressional Research Service, the State Department, myself and many others that the State of Nebraska has responsibility for siting this pipeline through Nebraska," Nelson said Monday.
Reaction among other members of the state's congressional delegation, all Republicans, was mixed.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry had joined Heineman's earlier call for an alternative pipeline route. The two were on the same page again Monday.
"The governor said Nebraskans expect state lawmakers' best efforts to determine whether alternatives to the proposed pipeline route exist. I agree," Fortenberry said. "The state should fully explore its authority regarding the regulation of pipelines within its boundaries."
Sen. Mike Johanns has objected to bringing the pipeline through Nebraska's environmentally sensitive Sand Hills, but he also has expressed skepticism that the state has authority to alter the route. Johanns declined to comment on Heineman's announcement.
Rep. Lee Terry has supported the proposed route and wrote legislation, passed by the House, that would require a speedy decision on the pipeline's permit. The Omaha lawmaker had little to say about Heineman's call for a special session.
"He has the right," Terry said.
Rep. Adrian Smith represents the state's 3rd Congressional District, through which the pipeline would travel. Smith supported Terry's legislation to expedite the permit process but has not taken a public position for or against the proposed route. He did not comment directly on Heineman's decision on a special session.
"There are a number of jurisdictional concerns surrounding this issue, but most agree the longer a decision is stalled, the greater the frustration will be for Nebraskans," Smith said. "As I have stated throughout this process, Nebraskans deserve a responsible, workable solution which respects property rights and ensures the protection of our state's vital natural resources."
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