Nebraska’s Public Service Commission’s first oil pipeline review is a doozy. After a Nebraskan district judge struck down a gubernatorial decision to green-light the pipeline through the state last week, the approval was kicked to an agency with little to no experience in oil pipeline oversight. More troubling are allegations that the board’s elected members took money from companies they would be in charge of regulating for their campaigns. Bloomberg reports:
The Public Service Commission, which sets rules for phone companies and grain storage, gained oversight for oil pipelines about two years ago. Its five elected members were criticized by a watchdog group for accepting campaign donations from companies. They now may become targets for Keystone supporters and foes counting on getting the panel to rule in their favor. […]From 2000 to 2012, three quarters of all reported donations to incumbent Nebraska commissioners were from regulated companies or people connected to them, according to a report from the [watchdog group Nebraska Common Cause].
As the environmental movement’s marquee issue, Keystone has become a focal point for spending for both green and brown groups. The PSC’s track record doesn’t exactly instill confidence that its decision will be made in the best interests of the state. Its lack of oil pipeline experience is also eyebrow-raising, given the international importance of its decision.We wrote last week that the district judge’s decision was a gift to President Obama, because it could allow him to kick the Keystone can past this year’s midterm elections. But if Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin is to be believed, his administration is set to make a decision sometime this spring. Don’t hold your breath though. The Nebraskan board review process could take as long as seven months, and the Government Accountability Office is reportedly investigating the State Department’s recent report on the project. We’ll be watching.