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With summer a memory, fall in the air, and harvest nearly completed, legislative activity is mounting. During the interim I have been privileged to meet so many new faces and work on important issues in our district. My staff and I visited many communities and look forward to future visits. These face-to-face meetings provided an opportunity to speak openly about legislative questions, potential policy issues, and simply to say “hello.”
With new district boundaries established in May, our legislative district has taken on a new appearance, and I have met many new constituents and friends. Unfortunately, meetings were not always under the best of circumstances as I was introduced to many impacted by the Missouri River flooding. With Burt and Washington Counties experiencing flood devastation, I spent a great deal of time attending meetings, touring damage, and even spending a few nights at the dormitories in Blair with flood victims. The outpour of assistance from our communities is humbling and encouraging. I had extensive and regular communication with government agencies, representatives and many others participating in the flood response. Although the flood waters receded, the repairs and damage are present with a lasting impact. As your elected representative, I continue to be engaged in this critical issue as we move forward.
The proposed TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline has also taken the spotlight in the Legislature and captured the attention of citizens statewide. Although the proposed pipeline route does not run through our district, I have heard from many of you on this issue. As you are likely aware, this issue has prompted Governor Heineman to call a special session to enact pipeline legislation. The proposed route is of concern to many, including me, because of the plan to route it through the Sandhills and over the Ogallala Aquifer, our precious water resource. As an international pipeline, the U.S. Department of State approves or denies the pipeline; a decision is expected before the year’s end, although recent rumblings indicate a potentially delayed decision. Nevertheless, there are a number of legal questions with regards to what laws our state can enact for pipeline siting, specifically, to impact this pipeline.
Leading up to the announced special session, on October 3rd we received draft legislation from Senator Annette Dubas to create a process for pipeline siting in Nebraska. Following this, Speaker Mike Flood held a press conference on October 5th to announce a meeting between TransCanada and Senators Chris Langemeier, Annette Dubas, and Kate Sullivan. The meeting resulted in TransCanada declining to move the pipeline route, instead, offering additional safety reinforcements. Speaker Flood presented us with his legal analysis of Senator Dubas’ bill draft where he acknowledged constitutional and federal pre-emption concerns that went into his decision not to support a special session. Since this time, Senator Dubas has revised her bill, engaging several reputable attorneys in the process.
This brings us to the present with the Governor’s call for a special session beginning on Tuesday, November 1. What will come of this is yet to be determined. Most importantly, we are carefully considering all prospective legislative action, weighing all legal and constitutional constraints, and listening to constituents. I have appreciated hearing from many of you. To be candid, my position is not in opposition of the pipeline; rather, I share the view of Gov. Heineman, U.S. Senators Johanns and Nelson, State Senators Avery and Fulton, among many others, that we must safeguard our water resources to protect the people and future generations, as well as our agriculture industry. We owe it to our citizens to carefully review and openly discuss this issue. Please feel free to contact me regarding your views on the pipeline, as well as any other legislative issues as we prepare for the upcoming legislative session in January.
Serving you in the Nebraska Legislature to keep the good life growing,
Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16