Lawmakers Meet with TransCanada


By Steve White

After more than a year of political back and forth on the Keystone XL pipeline, Nebraska reaches a critical point. Four key lawmakers are sitting down with the head of TransCanada's oil pipelines to sort out issues over the proposed route of this controversial project.

On the same day, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce sponsored a legislative forum in Grand Island today. They addressed issues coming when the legislature meets next January. But there's a looming possibility lawmakers could be back to work sooner than that, to deal with the route of the Keystone XL pipeline.

That includes State Sen. Deb Fischer. Once considered a long shot for U.S. Senate, Fischer has been gaining traction on the campaign trail. But while she hopes to go to Washington, she's mindful she could end up back in Lincoln soon.

Fischer said, "If we need a special session on this issue to solve it, then definitely we better have one. That's our job and we'd better move forward and do it."

But Fischer's waiting to see what happens in the meeting between lawmakers and TransCanada, as they discuss concerns about the proposed route through the Sandhills.

"We're just waiting to see if they come up with some sort of compromise solution to this," Fischer said. "I represent the Sandhills in the legislature and I know the importance of the aquifer to the people of this state."

The impact on the aquifer is keeping lawmakers up at night.

Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island said, "I fell asleep last night with a book on the Ogallala Aquifer on my bed."

Gloor said he's not "over-expecting" a compromise. He thinks it may be time for lawmakers to have a debate, apart from those making emotional arguments on both sides.

"It certainly stirs things up but I don't think it helps get to the real science behind the pipeline construction or permeability of the aquifer," he said.

He favors a special session, because he said it would separate facts from emotion.

Gloor said, "Seems to me there would be benefit to sit down collectively and share information whether a special session is the best way to do that, I'm not sure, but certainly seems to be a reasonable option we ought to look at."

Fischer didn't directly comment on the pipeline route, but said the U.S. could use Canadian oil.

She said, "We need to reach some kind of compromise on this because we need it for the economy and we need to move forward."

Two local senators -- Annette Dubas and Kate Sullivan were among the four meeting with TransCanada on Tuesday afternoon. They would like to give the state authority to re-route the pipeline.

Others want TransCanada to voluntarily move it. Still others yet believe the threat has been overstated.