LINCOLN — Environmental and landowner groups say a new bill that is expected to win final passage Wednesday will "rubber stamp" approval of the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska but will be struck down eventually as unconstitutional.
Representatives of the Sierra Club of Nebraska, Bold Nebraska, the Nebraska Farmers Union and the Natural Resources Defense Council took turns Tuesday during a telephone press conference criticizing Legislative Bill 1161. The legislation is designed to restart a state review of a pipeline route that avoids Nebraska's ecologically sensitive Sand Hills region.
Gov. Dave Heineman has indicated that he would sign the bill. He supports getting the Keystone XL pipeline built as quickly as possible.
Such eagerness was one of the concerns expressed by the groups. Under LB 1161, the governor would make the final decision on whether to approve a crude-oil pipeline route through the state.
Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska said that would be a clear conflict of interest because an agency under the governor — the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality — would oversee an environmental review of the new route.
Kleeb and others said they would prefer the pipeline regulation bill that was passed during last November's special session, which would put the Nebraska Public Service Commission — an independent agency with elected commissioners — in charge of reviewing the Keystone XL.
Ken Winston of the Sierra Club said he expects a lawsuit to be filed challenging LB 1161's constitutionality.
Officials of pipeline developer TransCanada Inc. have said they will submit a proposed "corridor" for a route bypassing the Sand Hills shortly after LB 1161 becomes law and will submit a new request for a federal pipeline permit in a couple of months.
In January, the Obama administration rejected a federal permit for the Keystone XL, citing a hasty deadline set by Congress and uncertainty over a route bypassing the Sand Hills. A state review of the bypass in Nebraska, halted in January, would resume with the passage of LB 1161.
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