YORK — Commissioners in eastern Nebraska's York County have decided not to adopt zoning regulations that would have affected the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The County Board voted 4-1 on Tuesday against setting any zoning regulations on underground transmission lines of any type.
Chairman Bill Bamesberger said the county attorney advised against adopting the regulations for several reasons, including the difficulty in interpreting them and the difficulty and expense in enforcing them. And, he said, state laws on siting and reclamation would pre-empt proposed regulations that included language about pipeline abandonment and depth requirements, setback distances and soil removal.
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Depth requirements had been met with arguments as the regulations were developed. The county planning commission had proposed that all underground lines be buried at least 5 feet deep. Landowners wanted that provision so any underground line or pipe would not interfere with landowners' efforts to install or maintain underground irrigation systems.
TransCanada, which wants to run the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska and other states to carry Canadian tar sands oil to Gulf Coast refineries, objected to the depth requirement because its plans call for the pipeline to be buried 4 feet down. Local utility companies also objected, because they don't usually bury their lines 5 feet deep. A TransCanada manager, Andrew Craig, told the commissioners that the company has dug deeper in some locations and would work with York County landowners on the issue.
A measure before the state Legislature this session would give the Nebraska Public Service Commission power to regulate depth requirements and remove that power from any other governmental entity, Bamesberger said.