Michael Whatley, executive vice president of Consumer Energy Alliance, tells KMTV in Omaha, Neb., why his organization supports the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline – and why it’s time for President Obama to make a decision on the proposed project.
Despite no indication of when or how the Nebraska Supreme Court may rule on a lawsuit involving the Keystone XL pipeline, supporters and those opposed to the pipeline are hopeful the court will rule for their side.
“We’re optimistic [the court] will rule that the new law in unconstitutional and agree with the lower court,” said Ken Winston, policy advocate for the Nebraska Sierra Club.
The case before the court has roots in 2012 when lawmakers passed a bill granting the governor power to approve the pipeline’s revised route. Groups sued the state, claiming the decision is the Public Service Commission’s to make. Lower courts sided with opposition groups, the state appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard arguments last autumn.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Michael Whatley, Executive Vice President Consumer Energy Alliance, which supports building the pipeline.
Whatley said his group’s members are pleased the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee approved a bill to approve the pipeline Thursday.
“We’re disappointed the senate even had to take this up but at the same time, if the senate is going to take the issue up, we want to see it passed,” explained Whatley.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote on, and pass, its own Keystone XL bill tomorrow, Friday. Representative Brad Ashford will support the bill. “As long as the process is carefully monitored for safety and environmental hazards, the Keystone XL Pipeline will be a benefit to Nebraska’s economy and job market,” Ashford said.
But President Obama says he will veto the bill should Congress pass it. Mr. Obama has said he will wait to see how the Nebraska Supreme Court rules on the case.
“But he doesn’t need to wait for this, so we’ll continue to call on the president to make a decision,” said Whatley.
Winston says while the court is deciding the Sierra Club will try to convince legislators the economic benefits are not worth the environmental risks. “Few of the benefits will flow to the people in our state but the negative impacts, the risks all fall on us.”
TransCanada says delays and adjustments to its plan have already cost the company billions of dollars. If the court rules the Nebraska route must be approved by the Public Service Commission, the decision could be delayed months or years.
Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, an opposition group, told the Associated Press if the court rules for the pipeline groups may file lawsuits on behalf of American Indian tribes, claiming the route will disturb cultural artifacts.