Nebraska governor to stick with Keystone XL pipeline law appeal

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – Gov. Dave Heineman says Nebraska will appeal a judge’s recent ruling striking down the state’s oil pipeline siting law, and doesn’t sound interested in talking to landowners about their concerns.

Gov. Dave Heineman

Last week, Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy declared unconstitutional a 2012 law that gave the governor and state environmental regulators the authority to approve oil pipeline routes. She said the state constitution gives the state Public Service Commission regulatory control over the routing of “common carriers” such as oil pipelines.

Heineman deflected questions about whether the Canadian company that’s been working for five years to get a federal permit to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Gulf Coast refineries, TransCanada, could instead go to the PSC for pipeline approval.

Heineman said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday that he believes the state will be successful in its appeal.

“I believe we passed a constitutional law,” he said. “Every lawyer in the Legislature voted for it.”

The attorney general thinks the law is constitutional, he noted.

“Hopefully we’ll win in court,” Heineman said.

He didn’t seem interested in Dave Domina‘s recent invitation to come to the table and talk about landowners’ concerns. Domina is the attorney who represented landowners in the lawsuit challenging the pipeline law.

Asked whether the state needs to pass new legislation, given Domina’s contention that Stacy’s ruling leaves the state without a pipeline siting law, the governor said he wouldn’t speculate on that and deferred to the attorney general.

Heineman also gave more specifics about what President Obama said in a meeting with governors on Monday at the White House. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin talked about energy and “put a plug in” for Keystone XL, Heineman said, but Obama did not comment. Then toward the end of the meeting, after Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal asked why the president didn’t use an executive order to approve the pipeline, the president said he would make a decision within the next couple of months, and that decision would make some governors happy, but not others.

“I’m not going to try and interpret or guess what that decision is going to be,” Heineman said. “After five years, America does need a decision.”

When asked by a reporter about the Health and Human Services Committee passing a bill Monday to the floor of the Legislature to expand Medicaid, the governor gave his now-familiar stump speech against it, saying, “We ought to accurately describe it: It’s Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.”

Then he said a new Americans United for Change radio ad bashing him for wanting the state to buy a new airplane while opposing Medicaid expansion is factually inaccurate. Heineman said Omaha Sen. Bob Krist is recommending the state buy a new $3.5 million airplane, whereas last year he recommended buying a “safe, used” airplane for about $2.5 million.

He said the push to expand Medicaid – a key provision of Obamacare that’s voluntary for states – is being orchestrated by the Obama administration and its “liberal allies.” He has steadfastly opposed the move, saying it’s too expensive and unsustainable and would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade.

The governor also pushed lawmakers to approve income and property tax relief this session, his last, to keep the state competitive at creating jobs.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org. Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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