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After fifteen days, the special session of the Legislature adjourned on November 22. I consider the session to have been a success and believe most citizens are satisfied with what was accomplished – addressing concerns with pipeline siting. In brief, TransCanada agreed to move the Keystone XL out of the Sandhills, and two bills were passed, LB 1 and LB 4.
LB 1, introduced by Senator Dubas, creates a process for routing future pipelines in Nebraska, known as the Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act. The bill requires an application be filed with the Public Service Commission, including a statement about why the particular route was selected in order to construct a major oil pipeline. The applicant is responsible for paying the fees for a public hearing for citizens to voice their opinions on the proposed route. The PSC must schedule the public hearing within 60 days and will be required to follow a 7 month timeline, with the possibility of a 12 month extension, to determine approval of the application. LB 1 requires the application be approved before eminent domain rights may be granted.
LB 4 enables us to collaborate with the federal government, specifically the U.S. Department of State, on oil pipelines in Nebraska. We will conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) on a new Keystone XL route proposed by TransCanada. The Department of Environmental Quality is charged with conducting this study, and in an effort to complete a transparent and objective study and to serve the citizens of this state, LB 4 does require that the state pay for this study, estimated to be approximately $2 million.
As I previously mentioned, the special session gave me an opportunity to introduce a legislative resolution, LR 12, regarding the Missouri River floods. On November 21 this resolution was voted on by the Legislature and adopted with full support. Senators spoke on the floor about those who went above and beyond to serve in the midst of the flooding and addressed the need for necessary changes to avoid another devastating flood event. It was a privilege to bring much needed attention to the flooding, victims, damages, volunteers, government officials, and the critical clean-up measures ahead.
The body also took up LR 8, introduced by Senator Louden, to “urge the United States Postal Service to reconsider its plan to close rural post offices in Nebraska.” This impacts our legislative district as the Village of Craig faces the closing of its post office. As you know, the post office is a valued community center. I believe our postal services needs to look for inefficiencies elsewhere as these rural post offices are run efficiently and have a significant role in our towns. LR 8 also was adopted by the Legislature.
Lastly, it’s widely known we are experiencing a diesel shortage. I have heard from several of you who have serious concerns with the availability of this essential commodity. I sent a letter to Governor Heineman to encourage him to issue a hours of service waiver for diesel haulers, so they have extended driving time to haul more diesel since they must now travel greater distances or wait longer. Hopefully such a waiver will ease some of the problems experienced with the shortage, and the refineries will complete maintenance and other services to resume regular diesel supply soon.
During this November month, we reflect on families, veterans, harvest, and all that we are thankful for. May you also remember and recognize all of the blessings in our lives as we celebrate this holiday season.
It is an honor to represent you, and I look forward to picking up this pen again when the Legislature convenes for session on January 4, 2012.
Serving you in the Nebraska Legislature to keep the good life growing,
Senator Lydia Brasch, District 16