Special Session Update

From the Legislature

By Kate Sullivan

District #41 State Senator

How long will the special session last?  At this point, I don’t know.  The good news is that there are only six bills before us:  five which deal with regulating or approving oil pipelines and one which appropriates funds for the special session.

Senator Annette Dubas introduced the first pipeline bill.  LB 1 assigns oil pipeline siting authority to the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC).  The PSC will review each  application to build a pipeline in or through Nebraska, hold a public hearing and make a decision to approve or deny the application based on whether the pipeline is in the public interest.  The bill prohibits use of eminent domain to acquire land easements until a permit is granted.  The Natural Resources Committee hearing is Monday, November 7.

Senator Bill Avery introduced two bills.  LB 3 requires a company to obtain their state and federal permits before they can use eminent domain to acquire land for oil pipeline construction.  The Judiciary Committee hearing is Tuesday, November 8.

Senator Avery also introduced LB 6 which requires any company with state and federal permits to build an oil pipeline to post a $500 million indemnity bond  90 days prior to beginning construction.  The indemnity bond will be available to landowners and counties to restore damages to land, infrastructure, or natural resources.  The Natural Resources Committee hearing is Wednesday, November 9th.

Natural Resources Committee Chair Senator Chris Langemeier introduced LB 4 which requires application to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for a route certificate to construct a pipeline.  DEQ must hold a public hearing within 30 days of the application.  LB 4 requires the Governor to appoint an eleven-member panel chaired by the Lieutenant Governor to review route certificate applications and make a recommendation to the Governor within 60 days of the original application.  The Governor has 30 days to accept or reject the panel’s recommendation.  The Natural Resources Committee hearing is Tuesday, November 8.

Senator Ken Haar introduced LB 5 which creates exclusion zones that are off limits to oil pipeline development.  The exclusion zones include the watersheds of Class A coldwater streams, the Sand Hills and any watershed where the groundwater depth is ten feet or less below the earth’s surface for a distance of ten miles or more. The Natural Resources Committee hearing is Wednesday, November 9.

After a great deal of consideration, I decided not to introduce legislation during the special session.  LB 629, which I passed during the regular session, makes pipeline companies responsible for reclaiming land disturbed when constructing and maintaining a pipeline.  I want to strengthen the Oil Pipeline Reclamation Act but those changes can be made in regular session beginning in January.  I don’t subscribe to the idea of introducing legislation just to be introducing legislation.

As you may have already experienced, lobbying efforts on this issue are intense.  Subsidized call centers are actively contacting citizens.  My legislative office has received numerous calls that were clearly generated by a third party in which the constituent is unsure of who or why they are calling.  Often, they think my office has called them.  Please know that these calls never originate from my office.

The opinions of my constituents are the ones that matter most to me, and the opinions of the citizens in District 41 are still varied:  those who think the pipeline is okay, those who want pipeline routes out of the Sand Hills and the aquifer and those who just don’t like pipelines.

I’ve been asked point blank, “Are you for or against the pipeline?”  My job as your senator is to listen to both sides of the issue and to work on legislation that is legally sound and does the best we can to serve ALL the citizens of this state.  I want Nebraska to have a say in how and where oil pipelines are constructed in our state.  The amount of regulatory authority we assign will be the subject of much debate over the next few  weeks.

If you have questions regarding this newsletter, legislation or state issues, please call my legislative office at (402) 471-2631.  There is Voicemail on my phone so if you get the recording, please leave a message and I’ll get back to you.  You may also write to me c/o P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE  68509 or email me at ksullivan@leg.ne.gov If you write or email, please include your full name and mailing address.