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Governor, Legislature The Pipeline Finger Is On YOU!
by John Bishop,posted Sep 29 2011 3:22PM
UPDATE: 5:00pm Thursday - Just spoke with Governor's Press Office. There are items Governor wishes to articulate that they believe have not been reported. We are working on getting the Governor LIVE in-studio next week to discuss further. Stay tuned!
On Thursday's show, we spent over an hour discussing and taking calls on the Keystone XL Pipeline controversy. You can listen to the podcast (sans commercials) below.
I am reminded of a seminal moment in my life when I hear Governor Heineman proclaim that the pipeline issue rests solely with the Federal Government (aka "The Obama Administration") and that he fears the state is powerless. The most surprising thing was that the Governor cited the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution as the primary reason what our state is at the mercy of Washington.
The same Commerce Clause that Nebraska is fighting in regards to Health Care Reform (aka "ObamaCare.")
The hypocrisy is galling and sad.
Let me retrace my steps to the seminal moment. It was on my grandparent's farm near Blair, we were having a family get together. All the uncles, aunts, cousins and the like were there and we were getting ready for a family picture near Grandma's garden. My cousin and I were jostling around, as cousins do, and I fell back into Grandma's flower garden. Grandma immediate admonished us and told us to "quit horsing around." At that moment I did what a lot of kids try to do and deflect blame on my cousin for pushing me into the flowers. That's when Grandma grabbed my cheeks and told me something that has stuck with me to this day.
I don't remember the exact words, but the message was clear....I was responsible for my own actions. Nothing is gained by deflecting blame on to others when my own actions could have prevented the problem. Was my cousin to blame, too? Sure. But I failed to take responsibility.
The amazing thing about this incident was that Grandma wasn't really that angry and it lasted all of 10 seconds. But to this day I remember the message and though I will still lapse from time to time into finger pointing, once there is time for reflection I always go back to Grandma's message and what actions I could have taken to improve the result.
And that's what the Governor needs to do in the case of this pipeline. It is not acceptable to just point the finger at Washington and say "Obama is doing this", "Hillary Clinton is forcing the pipeline to go through the Sandhills." Nebraska needs it's leaders to act in their best interest and if what the Governor and some lawmakers are saying is genuine, then that act is to prevent TransCanada from building the pipeline over the Sandhills and Ogallala Aquifer.
But what about the Commerce Clause, they might say?
Yeah, what about it!?! Not even one of Nebraska's leading and most respected constitutional lawyers, Jo Potuto of the University of Nebraska knows that for certain. Which is usually the case with the Commerce Clause. You end up having the courts decide. That is, if TransCanada wants to take the fight that far and they might, which means a decision has to be made. Is the cost of a lawsuit worth the price to save our Aquifer?
But first you have to get to that level. There is no reason Nebraska cannot pass a law similar to Montana or South Dakota, which requires companies to file for permits with a state-level environmental department and then stand on the principles of denying the permit on environmental or safety or health concerns if you deem it so. But Nebraska has no such law. Instead, they cede the power of eminent domain to oil companies to take land! While Montana and South Dakota work in their citizens' best interests, Nebraska rolls over and plays dead to Big Oil. No matter what you think about the need for cheap gas or buying products from friendly nations, that is a power that no government should cede to private companies.
So why won't our Governor and Legislature (save for a small cadre of senators like Ken Haar) work to do anything? Is it because they fear Big Oil? Is it because they are afraid to look like they are siding with "environmentalist wackos?" Is is because they really don't care where the pipeline goes and they are just giving lip service to concerned constituents? Is it because no matter which way they go, they will be seen as not catering to one or more of their beloved special interests? Republicans afraid of angering Big Oil and looking like they failed to create jobs? Democrats afraid of failing environmentalists and/or unions?
We are only left to speculate why because while their words say "we don't want the pipeline going over the Aquifer", their inaction speaks in much higher and clearer decibels.
And frankly, this issue falls more on the backs of the Governor and the Republicans in the Legislature. Because even if the Democrats - some of whom are equally as scared to take a firm stand - were united in an effort to create a law protecting Nebraska's interests, their small numbers cannot overcome a three-fourths GOP majority at the state capitol. Anyone who knows anything about Nebraska politics knows that if something is going to get passed, it's going to need a majority of Republicans to get it passed.
Nebraskans are too far divided on this issue and its many dynamics to satisfy everyone. Someone is going to be upset at the end of all of this. But inaction, combined with playing the "blame game", is not the way to responsibly deal with this issue.
We elect leaders to lead. Leading is not pointing fingers. Grandma taught me that many years ago.