mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
A Long and Winding Pipe
Meet the Inexperienced, Possibly Corrupt Review Board That Could Kill Keystone

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.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Boritz

    There was an energy summit hosted by the Bush White House. Bush and Cheney met with petroleum executives to the outrage of the Left. How dare they invite oil big wigs to an energy summit. What sense did that make? Invite experts in the energy field for crying out loud. By that standard Nebraska has it all under control.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    This is interstate commerce (a federal prerogative), state governments should have no say at all in regulating interstate pipelines.

  • Corlyss

    Sort of reminds me of the oil pipeline company that wanted to bid on an IRS contract for mail-handling services.

  • free_agent

    You write, “three quarters of all reported donations to incumbent Nebraska commissioners were from regulated companies or people connected to them”.

    Buried in this is the implication that the commissioners are elected, not appointed. Presumably they are elected to ensure that they are answerable to the people, and not political interests. Maybe it doesn’t work out that way in practice! But given how high-profile the Keystone pipeline is, I suspect that the commissioners will measure public sentiment quite carefully.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service