LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline plans to meet with landowners along its planned route through Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana this week and will start aerial surveying of the route in all three states, a company spokesman said Monday.
ransCanada Inc. spokesman Matt John said the company will make financial offers to all landowners along the proposed route, including those who have already granted the company access to their land. Company officials are forging ahead despite pending lawsuits in Nebraska and Montana that aim to derail the project."It's important that all of our landowners are treated fairly, and offering these agreements to all landowners who have previously signed easements is part of our commitment," John said.
The $8 billion, 1,179-mile pipeline would transport Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries.
John said company officials will offer a "construction completion bonus" as an incentive to get landowners to sign easement agreements. They also plan to award bonuses to early signers and will give landowners time to review the contracts with outside attorneys. John said TransCanada still hopes to begin construction in early 2019.
Opponents said they're still confident they will thwart the project.
In Nebraska, landowners have filed a lawsuit challenging the Nebraska Public Service Commission's decision to approve a route through the state. A federal lawsuit brought by Montana landowners and environmental groups seeks to overturn President Donald Trump's decision to grant a presidential permit for the project, which was necessary because it would cross the U.S.-Canadian border.
President Barack Obama's administration studied the project for years before Obama finally rejected it in 2015, citing concerns about carbon pollution. Trump reversed that decision in March 2017, but John said the State Department has begun a supplemental environmental review of the route. The State Department has previously reviewed the route, but another analysis became necessary because the Nebraska Public Service Commission approved a different route than the one TransCanada had preferred.
"We know this song and dance very well," said Jane Kleeb, president of the Bold Alliance, a leading pipeline opposition group. "This pipeline will never be built. It's all P.R., and this is so typical of TransCanada."
The pipeline faces intense resistance from environmental groups, Native American tribes and some landowners along the route who worry about its long-term impact on their groundwater and property rights. But in Nebraska, many affected landowners have accepted the project and are eager to collect payments from the company.
"People here are a step above being OK about it — they're enthusiastic," said Ron Schmidt, a Madison County commissioner and farmer who owns property on the route. "I've talked to landowners who want the route to move just a little so it can go through their property."Schmidt said he views the project as a one-time boost for the local economy that would help generate tax revenue. He said he also sees it as a way to promote the nation's energy independence, an assertion that many opponents dispute.
Farmer Art Tanderup, who has fought the pipeline since 2012, said he's still hopeful the project will never move forward and that TransCanada is "trying to appease its investors" with its announcement.
He said he opposes the project because of its potential impact on the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive groundwater system in Nebraska and seven other states, and concerns about a foreign company trying to use eminent domain on U.S. landowners.
"It's easy for us to tell them 'no' if they do come knocking," Tanderup said.
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Authorities say a man was arrested after deputies found marijuana in his car after stopping it along Interstate 80 near Lincoln.
The Lancaster County Sheriff's Office says a deputy pulled over the car around 11 a.m. Friday after seeing the driver fail to signal a lane change near the U.S. Highway 77 exit. The deputy reported smelling marijuana in the car, and a subsequent search turned up 114 pounds (52 kilograms) of pot and some cannabis edibles.
The man, who lives in Sioux City, Iowa, was arrested on suspicion of possession for sale and suspicion of other crimes. Court records don't show that he's been formally charged.
LINCOLN – This morning, Governor Pete Ricketts has issued an emergency declaration to allow state funds to be used for the response to the blizzard which has affected Nebraskans statewideFriday and continuing into this morning.
“Hundreds of motorists have been stranded and power outages are reported in many communities,” Governor Ricketts said. “This declaration allows state funds from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to help our communities in their response.”
Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is working to get a temporary communications tower to Region 26 after its dispatch tower was toppled due to 60 mph winds. Blaine, Garfield, Greeley, Loup, Sherman, Thomas, Valley, and Wheeler counties make up Region 26 and are affected by the loss.
Road closures, including Interstate 80 and U.S. Highways 30 and 20, have affected travelers and sent them to shelters. Big Springs and Sidney report that they have opened shelters.
“Road conditions are still not safe across the state and travel is not recommended,” said NEMA Assistant Director Bryan Tuma. “Stay home and be safe.”
Road conditions remain poor to impassible in many parts of central to western Nebraska. At this time, Interstate 80 is closed to westbound traffic from Grand Island to the Wyoming state line. Eastbound I-80 is closed from the Wyoming state line to Ogallala. Keep up-to-date on other road closures by calling 511, visiting 511.Nebraska.gov, or by downloading the 511 smartphone app.
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A measure aiming to curb cyberbullying was signed into law by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts.
The bill approved Wednesday makes harassment or intimidation by electronic message a crime. Previous Nebraska law only applied to threatening phone calls. The misdemeanor offense is punishable by a maximum of three months in jail and a $500 fine.
Lawmakers say most intimidation now happens through digital technology, like text messages, email or online messages.
The bill will also make it illegal to own or use a card-scanning device to gain unauthorized credit or debit card information.
The measure received strong support and passed 48-0 on its final-round vote.
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new report says there are more doctors in Nebraska than there were 10 years ago, but 13 counties still don't have a primary care physician.
The Status of the Healthcare Workforce report issued Wednesday says data from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the state show the number of doctors has risen 11 percent.
The report says nearly a fifth of physicians in Nebraska are more than 60 years old and likely to retire in the near future. It also says 18 of 93 Nebraska counties have no pharmacist.
The report recommended more state support for programs and educational initiatives that provide incentives for health care professionals to practice in rural communities.
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska state officials have requested an execution warrant for the state's longest-serving death-row inmate.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson asked the state Supreme Court on Tuesday to grant an execution warrant for Carey Dean Moore, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1979 shooting deaths of two Omaha cab drivers.
Nebraska hasn't executed an inmate since 1997, when inmate Robert Williams was electrocuted for killing three women. The state has since adopted a lethal injection protocol.
The court motion says Moore has no pending appeals or stays of execution in state or federal courts. Moore has had several execution dates set, most recently in 2007 and 2011, but courts have stayed them.
An execution warrant triggers a 60-day window for state officials to carry out the execution and allows them to set a date. It's not clear when or if the Supreme Court would issue it.
State officials notified Moore in January of the drugs they intend to use.
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The Latest on a Nebraska budget bill aimed at abortion providers (all times local):
Nebraska is on pace to pass a budget that could deny federal money to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, at least temporarily.
Lawmakers advanced a budget Wednesday night that would prevent health clinics from getting family-planning dollars if they perform abortions or refer patients to clinics that do. Referrals would be allowed in emergencies.
It also would require health clinics to demonstrate physical, financial and legal separation from abortion providers. Opponents say Planned Parenthood won't have time to legally separate its abortion and non-abortion services before the bill goes into effect.
Because it's in the budget, lawmakers would have to approve the measure again next year.
The 44-4 vote followed two failed attempts to advance the budget. One final vote is required before it goes to Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Lawmakers have advanced a measure that would allow higher speed limits on many Nebraska highways to a final vote in the Legislature.
The measure won second-round approval on Wednesday. A third vote is required before it goes to Gov. Pete Ricketts.
The bill would allow the state Department of Transportation to raise speed limits on certain four-lane roads to 65 mph, and other expressways could see increases to 70 mph. Sen. John Murante, of Gretna, the bill's sponsor, says it would streamline the state's highways. Interstate 80 would be excluded.
No one spoke in opposition to the measure Wednesday.