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Nebraska legislature to consider giving governor control over pipeline route

The Nebraska legislature, meeting in a special session to deal specifically with the Keystone XL pipeline that would cross their state, may be on the verge of passing a bill that could give the governor control over the route that pipeline would take.

On Wednesday, the Natural Resources Committee voted 7-1 to send a bill to the full legislature that would require all oil pipeline companies to have the routes of their pipelines certified by a state panel headed by the governor before starting construction.

LB4, introduced by Schuyler Sen. Chris Langemeier, would adopt the Oil Pipeline Route Certification Act. Under the bill, authority to issue a route certification for a proposed pipeline ultimately would rest with the governor. It would also establish a panel of experts and landowners to advise the governor, and require the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources to receive applications and hold public meetings regarding a proposed pipeline route. Finally, the proposal requires a route certificate to be obtained before eminent domain rights could be exercised by a pipeline carrier.

It is an open legal question whether the passage of such a bill would be legally viable, since the approval of the project is generally viewed as a federal question. Nonetheless, Nebraska lawmakers are set to begin their first round of debate on Nov. 14 at 1:30 p.m. Four amendments have been filed in advance of that debate.

Heineman came out against the pipeline route earlier this year, citing the importance of the Ogallala aquifer to regional residents and the agricultural industry.

On Thursday, the U.S. State Department announced it needed time to further review the route proposed by TransCanada. A final decision is not expected until 2013.

In light of the federal news, Nebraska Sen. Langemeier told Kevin O’Hanlon of the Lincoln Journal Star that he would consider setting the bill aside.

“The bill is out to have a discussion, but at this point, maybe a discussion is not needed in a special session,” he said. “This might be able to be further discussed … in January,” when the legislature returns to regular session.

Ed Brayton contributed to this report.

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