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Nebraska PSC Takes on Pipeline Oversight

February 3, 2012

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports that the Nebraska Public Service Commission is taking over a pipeline oversight function it has historically lacked, after the Legislature assigned the new mandate in a December special session.  The PSC doesn’t anticipate dealing with Keystone XL – whose route change is in the hands of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality – and will not get any additional funding.  However, the PSC is promulgating new rules to deal with future pipeline siting activities, so that Nebraska can be pro-active about protecting its natural resources, rather than fighting the kind of controversial rear-guard action that took place as Keystone XL prepared to roll through the Sandhills.  Because Nebraska is the only wholly “public power” state in the county (i.e., no investor-owned electric utilities), the PSC lacks the electric rate regulatory function that other PSCs commonly have.  Its jurisdiction extends to telecommunications, transport (motor carriers and railroads), grain warehouses and dealers, modular/manufactured housing and recreational vehicles, and natural gas rates and pipelines.  Regulating other pipelines shouldn’t be a stretch, but it will take good rules and diligent enforcement.

Assuming that the PSC pipeline rules are robust, the Legislature just needs to pass a decent pipeline abandonment statute so that taxpayers aren’t left holding the bag when Keystone I, Keystone XL, or any other pipeline across Nebraska reaches the end of its useful life.  There are good models out there, in neighboring Iowa for example.  Don’t fumble the ball yet, Nebraskans: you’re making progress up the field, and you of all people love a good football metaphor.

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