Nebraska Approves Keystone XL Bill

Lindsey Kratochwill

The Key­stone XL Pipeline this week received anoth­er boost when Nebras­ka law­mak­ers vot­ed Wednes­day to approve a bill re-launch­ing a state review of the pipeline that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma denied fed­er­al per­mits to in Jan­u­ary. The bill – which oppo­nents say amounts to a rub­ber stamp for Tran­sCana­da – allows state review of the project to con­tin­ue, regard­less of what goes on fed­er­al­ly. The pipeline was set to cut through the Oglala aquifer, endan­ger­ing the area’s water sup­ply, though the new bill is expect­ed to review a new route avoid­ing the aquifer. Shawn Howard, a Tran­sCana­da spokesper­son, told Reuters that the leg­is­la­tion puts the pow­er for final route selec­tion in Nebras­ka back in the hands of Nebraskans, regard­less of what takes place at the fed­er­al level.”
Despite intense oppo­si­tion from envi­ron­men­tal­ists, the Key­stone pro­pos­al has been kept alive large­ly by the inter­ven­tions of lob­by­ists. The Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil (ALEC) has a mod­el res­o­lu­tion in sup­port of the leg­is­la­tion that has been intro­duced in state leg­is­la­tures in Wash­ing­ton and Iowa. These mod­el res­o­lu­tions are draft­ed by anony­mous­ly with­in ALEC and made avail­able for use by legist­la­tors across the coun­try. In Maine, law­mak­ers passed a res­o­lu­tion in late March to sup­port the con­struc­tion of the Key­stone XL Pipeline. Accord­ing to the Ban­gor Dai­ly News, the dis­cus­sion focused most­ly on the price per gal­lon of gas and ener­gy secu­ri­ty. Sen­a­tor Ronald Collins (R‑York) report­ed­ly said “every­time we buy oil from over­seas, we’re sup­port­ing ter­ror­ists who want to kill us. We should tell the rest of the coun­try that Maine is behind this.”The res­o­lu­tion passed, but oth­er leg­is­la­tors in Maine thought the state had no place in get­ting involved in such a debate, not­ing that the res­o­lu­tion sound­ed very sim­i­lar to anoth­er that the ALEC had draft­ed. Last week, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Con­nie Mack (R‑Fla.) launched a peti­tion at a Mia­mi gas sta­tion in sup­port of con­struct­ing Key­stone XL.Mack blamed the high gas prices on the pres­i­dent and Sen­a­tor Bill Nel­son (D‑Fla.), for their unwill­ing­ness to approve the pipeline, but the ques­tion remains whether Florid­i­ans will buy into the stunt. The Mia­mi Her­ald report­ed: But the only man who signed the peti­tion, gas sta­tion own­er Michael Mendez, didn’t sound so sure about what the pipeline would do or how much Oba­ma or Nel­son were to blame for the costs of oil, which Mendez said was a glob­al issue. “These gas prices, to me, it doesn’t mat­ter who’s in office,” Mendez said. “Gas prices always go up through­out the year. And then it’s going to come down. And then everyone’s not going to say any­thing for a lit­tle while.” Still, Mendez said, the peti­tion is “bet­ter than doing noth­ing.”Since his stint in Mia­mi, Mack has trav­eled to oth­er gas sta­tions around Flori­da, includ­ing Orlan­do and his home­town of Fort Mey­ers.Oppo­nents to the pipeline main­tain that because the oil it car­ries to refiner­ies is expect­ed to be export­ed for over­seas con­sump­tion, it would have no effect on gas prices domes­ti­cal­ly. Accord­ing to The Hill: Ener­gy experts say there is lit­tle fed­er­al pol­i­cy­mak­ers can do to low­er gaso­line prices, as they are teth­ered to oil prices, which are set on world mar­kets. Even a dra­mat­ic expan­sion of domes­tic oil-and-gas leas­ing would have lit­tle effect on prices, they say. The Nation­al Resource Defense Coun­cil like­wise says that there is no cred­i­ble evi­dence […] that gas prices would decline if Key­stone XL was con­struct­ed.”Regard­less, House Repub­li­cans are tak­ing note of the high gas prices and seem­ing sup­port from Nebras­ka leg­is­la­ture, adding lan­guage that sup­ports approval of the pipeline to anoth­er 90-day exten­sion of the fed­er­al trans­porta­tion fund­ing. The cur­rent bill is set to run out on June 30, three months after its March 30 approval by Con­gress.  
Lind­sey Kra­tochwill, an In These Times edi­to­r­i­al intern, is stu­dent at North­west­ern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
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