A measure introduced Wednesday in the Legislature would require oil companies to go through an extensive application process before running pipe through Nebraska -- a move that attempts to slow TransCanada Corp.'s plan to construct a pipeline near the Ogallala aquifer.
The bill (LB340) by State Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton calls for companies proposing to own, operate or manage a pipeline in Nebraska to file an application with the Nebraska Public Service Commission. The company must submit pre-filed testimony and exhibits in support of the application, as well as establish proof of environmental and economic impact studies and show that the proposed pipeline serves the public interest, among other things.
The proposed pipeline would also be subject to public meetings and a public hearing conducted by the Public Service Commission. If the commission denies the company's application, it could not exercise eminent domain to acquire rights-of-way for the pipeline.
Dubas' bill follows a legislative study she helped work up last year on TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska that would carry oil from Canada through several states to Texas oil refineries.
At hearing in December, Dubas conceded that the routing of the proposed pipeline is likely a federal issue that state lawmakers can little influence. Because the pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canadian border, presidential permits from the U.S. State Department are required.
But Dubas warned at the time that the state could exert more oversight on pipelines within Nebraska's boundaries.
"As a state, we do have the right and the responsibility to protect our resources," she said Wednesday after introducing her bill.
Dubas said her measure is in response to Nebraskans who have voiced concerns about what the pipeline could do to their property and about its safety. Those feared were amplified last year following the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and a broken pipeline that spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would course over parts of the massive Ogallala aquifer, which helps feed the region and the world.
TransCanada officials have insisted the pipeline would be the best and safest pipeline ever built.
Keystone pipeline program representative Jeff Rauh said Wednesday that TransCanada officials had not been able to thoroughly review Dubas' bill and could not comment on it.
But Rauh noted the potential impacts of the pipeline "are already under review by the State Department" and other federal regulators.
Dubas said she expected to hear from TransCanada officials soon enough about the bill.
"I'm asking them to jump through a few more hoops and spend a little more money, so I imagine they won't be happy," she said.