A new amendment being considered by the Legislature's Natural Resources Committee could affect the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
The Committee is working on a bill By Sen. Jim Smith to extend the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality's authorization to review a new route for the Keystone XL. Pipeline company TransCanada says it hopes to resubmit its application to the federal government in a couple of months, although the Nebraska process may take longer. The legislation would let DEQ study any new route submitted before January 1 of next year.
A new amendment distributed Friday would let the state seek reimbursement from TransCanada for the estimated $2 million cost of a study if the company doesn't use it. TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard says the company is willing to pay. "We have been asked that if the project didn't go ahead would we be willing to reimburse the state for costs of the work that has to take place on a routing application in Nebraska? We have said 'Yes, we would,'" Howard said.
Howard said there have been no discussions within TransCanada about going back to the original proposed route through the Sandhills that stirred so much opposition. "We have no plans to go back to the old route. That's part of our agreement. That's part of the word we gave to the state. And Sen. Smith's bill is part of legislation that's needed to make sure that the state can honor its part of the agreement and help us avoid the Sandhills," he declared.
Sen. Ken Haar of Malcom criticized the amendment. He said it leaves open the possibility that the State Department would reject the study, and Nebraska would be stuck with the $2 million cost. The committee is expected to discuss the amendment on Tuesday.
BACK ANNOUNCE: To watch a discussion with Sen. Jim Smith about the pipeline bill and other topics, visit our website, netnebraska.org/capitolconversations.