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Gov. Heineman: Plains Justice Read My Mind

November 30, 2010

Okay, he didn’t exactly say that. Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman’s comment was reported on KNEB radio as: “(Heineman) has identified many of the environmental concerns regarding the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that an environmental watchdog group discussed in its latest report.” Plains Justice’s concerns, based on an extensive review of Keystone emergency response planning data and real life emergency response activities, center around the availability of large amounts of trained staff and specialized equipment should a spill happen in isolated areas along the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The radio station also reports:

State Senator Tony Fulton of Lincoln is also concerned about the financial impact on the state and landowners if there is a major leak and spill, but Governor Heineman isn’t sure the state has the power to put its own restrictions on top of federal rules.

This is why the Legislature’s Natural Resources Committee is on the right track as it contemplates improved pipeline regulation. Other states (Montana is the best example along the Keystone XL route) have put in place heightened review for this kind of major infrastructure project. Montana law requires a Major Facility Siting Certificate, which gives the state the authority to place conditions on the pipeline. Next door to Nebraska, Iowa has a strong pipeline abandonment law. Maybe that’s why the Keystone pipeline took an odd dog leg around Iowa instead of going through it to get from South Dakota to Illinois.

There’s also authority at the county and local level to control siting and zoning decisions to protect residents. State government has some latitude to examine claims made by developers about economic impact, job creation, and tax revenue, to make sure that the project really has as big an upside for Nebraska as people have heard. And a governor’s correspondence to the State Department and White House doesn’t go unread. The bully pulpit is waiting for leaders to step on up.

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