Special session spreads around any future blame

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

First, Gov. Dave Heineman was opposed to a special session to deal with the Keystone XL pipeline. Then, Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk said he would not support a special session.

Now, the governor has called for a special session beginning a week from today, to determine whether the state can force TransCanada to reroute the pipeline.

We'll take Heineman's word that his change of heart was because of "continued discussion" on the controversial project, but wonder if it might be more a matter of taking political cover now that the speaker of the Legislature is on record opposing the special session.

Other questions include whether the Obama administration is likely to deny a construction permit for an energy project in an election year, and whether the Legislature is willing to act in light of recent safety concessions by TransCanada outlined in a letter last week.

It's worth noting that the 36-inch Keystone XL will be far from the first oil pipeline crossing the Ogallala Aquifer; the 20-inch Platte Pipeline pumps oil from the Rocky Mountains to an exit station near Odell. Kinder Morgan has operated that pipeline without a spill since it bought it in 2005, but its previous owners had to pay a $50,000 settlement over an 8,500-barrel oil spill into the North Platte River in 1981 near Glenrock, Wyoming.

That spill, which contaminated 68 miles of river, was blamed by the pipeline owner on crews laying telephone lines.

We would hope that the Keystone XL ultimately is rerouted, to make pollution of the Ogallala Aquifer a non-issue, from that source, anyway.

But if nothing is done now, and a major spill does occur, there will be plenty of blame to spread around.

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