Governor Heineman Washes Hands of Dirty Oil,
Disses Constituents with Double Standard
Nebraska is a welcome hotbed of activity on the Keystone XL pipeline. The Nebraska Farmers Union packed the house last Friday with a debate on the proposed tar sands pipeline. TransCanada spokesman Jeff Rauh squared off with Plains Justice advocate Paul Blackburn. Robert Pore's account in the Grand Island Independent is worth reading. Plains Justice apparently won the day: afterward, the Nebraska Farmers Union passed a resolution formally opposing the Keystone XL pipeline.
Also speaking on Keystone XL (among other topics) at the Nebraska Farmers Union annual meeting was Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman. During a Q&A, a member of Keystone XL opponent Bold Nebraska asked Governor Heineman to join Senator Mike Johanns in calling for a better study of the pipeline's potential impact on the Nebraska Sand Hills and Ogallala Aquifer.
Governor Heineman's response:
But Heineman accused Bold Nebraska of playing politics with the pipeline issue. Heienman then referred to the Democratic administration in answering the question.
"This is a federal regulatory issue," Heineman said. "There are two people who can stop it -- President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- and that is where our focus ought to be."
Heineman said he appreciates Johanns' efforts and is supportive of it and has sent correspondence to Clinton expressing concerns Nebraskans have about the pipeline project and its proposed route through the Sandhills and across the Ogallala Aquifer.
"Maybe that route needs to change or maybe they don't even go forward with it," he said. "But that is where the decision is -- it is a federal regulatory issue and there's nothing we can do at the state level, at this time, to prevent that. Maybe in the future, but not on this particular one" [Robert Pore, "Merits of Proposed Oil Pipeline Debated at Farmers Union Convention," Grand Island Independent, 2010.12.03].
Fascinating: a Republican governor who doesn't think state-level activists should "play politics" with federal issues. This from a member of the Republican Party that is playing politics with unemployment benefits, the START treaty, and everything else on Congress's agenda in order to get huge tax breaks for rich people who don't need them and won't stimulate the economy. This from a governor who himself is playing politics with federal health care legislation and with the clearly federal issue of immigration.
Governor Heineman has acknowledged environmental concerns about TransCanada's Keystone XL. He now needs to get consistent and apply some of that Republican states-rights backbone to this issue and fight for a better route for the pipeline... or no pipeline at all.