There was this guy, when I served on the Lincoln City Council, who wanted to open a bar on "O" Street.
He applied for a liquor license, and while he was waiting, he fixed up the space he had rented, fixed it up very nicely. Turns out his license was not approved. He assumed that because he had spent his money and time, he would get his license. Too bad he didn't read the part of the application that said:
"If your operation depends on receiving a liquor license, the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission cautions you that if you purchase, remodel, start construction, spend or commit money that you do so at your own risk."
Three years ago, TransCanada, a multinational company with the head office in Calgary, Alberta, applied for a Presidential Permit with the U.S. State Department to cross the United States/Canadian border with a crude oil pipeline.
It drew a straight-line route that goes through the Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer. It was so sure it would get the permit and be able to use its shortest route that it moved ahead to implement its business plan.
It spent millions of dollars to buy land easements along the assumed route. And, where persuasion did not work, landowners were bullied and threatened with eminent domain, for a pipeline which TransCanada has no current authority to build.
At the same time TransCanada was buying up easements, it spent $1.8 million to relocate the rare and endangered American burrowing beetle away from its proposed and assumed route.
TransCanada also says it signed agreements and priced its oil transportation to the refineries in Texas based on the assumed route, which is, of course, the shortest and least expensive. And it will realize millions less in profit if the pipeline is delayed.
As President Barack Obama is poised to decide on TransCanada‘s permit by the end of the year, Nebraska lawmakers are engaged in a special session of the Legislature to implement siting regulations for oil pipelines.
Among the arguments TransCanada has launched as to why Nebraska should not pass siting legislation at this time is, "It's unfair to TransCanada's shareholders to pass regulations now!"
Because TransCanada already has bought 90 percent of the easements, relocated the American burrowing beetles and priced its oil shipping prices for the shortest route, which goes through the Sandhills.
TransCanada has spent more than $300,000 lobbying in Nebraska and millions of dollars in Washington with a theme that can be described as, "we don't want no pipeline laws."
I have some sympathy for the business owner in Lincoln who didn't understand the risk he was taking to fix up his bar before he had the liquor license.
But I have no sympathy for a multinational oil company that has unlimited legal expertise at its fingertips. In a free-market economy, you take risk and then accept responsibility for that risk.
TransCanada knew the risks of proceeding on the basis of assumptions! It's its own doing. No one forced it to jump the gun, buy easements, move beetles and make deals!
TransCanada is asking Nebraska to take risks with our water to cover its risks!
As lawmakers, we must not be cowed by TransCanada's cry that it can't make a profit if it has to change its route.
Profit margin for shareholders is not Nebraska's problem. The Keystone XL crude oil pipeline going through the Sandhills is!