Public hearings set for pipeline legislation

The Nebraska Legislature announced the dates and times of public hearings on legislation introduced this week concerning oil pipelines. Gov. Dave Heineman called the special session in light of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline route, which has grown in controversy in recent months. The governor atypically called the session without proposing any legislation. The Unicameral will convene next week Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. in the Legislative chamber before public hearings are held. Legislation debated in committees next week will either proceed to the floor for debate or will die in its hearing committee. Floor debate will likely begin Nov. 14. The first public hearing will be in Room 1525 in the state capitol Monday., Nov. 7 at 10 a.m. The Natural Resources Committee will consider Fullerton Sen. Annette Dubas’ oil pipeline bill. This bill would grant the Public Service Commission routing authority over oil pipelines constructed within the state. In addition, only oil pipeline companies certified by the commission would have the right to use eminent domain proceedings to acquire land and easements for their routes. The second public hearing will be held in Room 1113 in the state capitol at 10 a.m. The Judiciary Committee will consider Lincoln Sen. Bill Avery’s bill concerning eminent domain and easements. The bill would require an oil pipeline company to obtain a certificate from either a federal or state entity before declaring eminent domain. Schuyler Sen. Chris Langemeier’s oil pipeline bill will also be heard Tuesday., Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. in Room 1525 in the state capitol. Langemeier’s bill would give the governor the authority to grant or deny applications for oil pipeline construction within the state. Hearings will be held Wednesday, Nov. 9 for bills presented by Malcolm Sen. Ken Haar and Avery in Room 1525 in the state capitol at 10 a.m. Haar’s bill, which also would grant the Public Service Commission the power to oversee oil pipeline applications for construction within the state, includes an “exclusion zone” within which no oil pipelines may be built. The exclusion zone is defined as the Nebraska Sandhills, watersheds of large streams and zones within which the water table is within 10 feet of the surface. Avery’s bill would require all oil pipeline companies building within the state to post a $500 million indemnity bond. Counties and landowners could use this money to restore damage done to surrounding land, infrastructure or natural resources.