Candidates mum on controversial Keystone XL pipeline

Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

It looked as if a little known state board all set for a key role in the future of the Keystone XL pipeline would be front and center for voters this spring.

Sorry, looks can be deceiving.

Keystone XL pipeline

You see the Democratic hopefuls for an open seat on the Public Service Commission—Anne Boyle is not running for reelection—refuse to say how they might vote on the pipeline.

All three Omahans—Jim Esch, John Green and Crystal Rhoades—tell Nebraska Watchdog that because the PSC might have to rule on the pipeline, taking sides now would be inappropriate. The primary is May 13.

Green: “Taking a position would be like a judge deciding a case before the trial starts.”

Rhoades: ”(I) do not want to make prejudicial declarations that would force me to recuse myself from this important matter.”

Esch: ”Choosing sides now would not be responsible.”

At the same time all argue they’ll be ready to decide if and when the time comes.

Esch is a two-time candidate for Congress, losing both times to Rep. Lee Terry.

Green, a lawyer who says he’s appeared before the PSC, has spent the last 26 years on the Omaha Public Power District board.

Rhoades has been a member of the Metropolitan Community College Board since 2006.

A Nebraska judge recently struck down the state’s pipeline law which gave the state Department of Environmental Quality and governor authority over major oil pipelines. The judge said the law is unconstitutional because the state constitution gives that authority to the PSC.

The state is appealing that ruling, but the appeal is expected to take at least a year. In the meantime, TransCanada could try to get its pipeline route approved by the PSC under legislation passed in 2011 giving the commission the authority to approve major oil pipelines, or pipelines with a diameter of at least six inches.

The winner of the primary will face Republican John Seiler in the November election. Seiler is unopposed in the GOP primary.

Six years ago Boyle easily defeated her Republican rival in District 2. The Omaha seat is considered a tough sell for the GOP.

Contact Joe Jordan at joe@nebraskawatchdog.org and listen to Joe every Monday morning at 7:40 on KFAB radio in Omaha.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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