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On major issues affecting Nebraska, leadership is expected from the governor. It's his job.

One of the big concerns for many Nebraskans these days is TransCanada's proposal to build a pipeline through the Ogallala Aquifer and the Sandhills. The Journal Star editorial board two weeks ago took a stand on the project, calling for the pipeline to be rerouted around the Sandhills.

We now call for Gov. Dave Heineman to take a stand.

"I have some concerns about the overall project," Heineman told the Journal Star when he was lambasted by opponent Mike Meister for not speaking out. But Heineman has made no official statement to federal officials on the pipeline or its route.

Heineman's reasoning is that the pipeline is a federal regulatory issue over which he has no authority. This reasoning certainly didn't stop Heineman from speaking out against the federal health care reform law, however.

Heineman says health care reform is different, because the law directly affects his budget with higher Medicaid costs.

However, the state budget is not the only area in which Nebraskans have a right to expect leadership from the governor. In addition to protecting our tax dollars, we count on the governor to protect our state's natural assets. The Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer are the types of assets that can't be quantified in monetary terms.

The governor said he'd be more active if there were a Republican president. Heineman told the Journal Star he'd call Sen. Mike Johanns, Nebraska's Republican senator, and ask for "a thorough review to make sure all environmental concerns are addressed."

We think Nebraska's concerns should be shared and taken into account regardless of whether the political party of the governor and president match up.

And TransCanada certainly thinks Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning are worth bothering with; it contributed $2,500 to each of their re-election campaigns.

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To their credit, Heineman and Bruning returned the contributions when questions were raised regarding their legality.

But the fact remains that quite a few are waiting for Heineman to weigh in on this issue. Cartoonist Neal Obermeyer, whose voice is independent from that of the editorial board, made the point Sunday. And on a national level, from the well-known liberal blog Mother Jones: "While the decision on whether TransCanada can build the pipeline will ultimately come from the Department of State, state elected officials will likely weigh in on eminent domain law and the safety precautions the company will need to take."

At the least, Heineman could call for greater state oversight of pipelines; Nebraska has virtually none. Heineman told the editorial board he expected some conversations to take place concerning pipeline regulation in the legislative session. We hope that happens.

Nebraskans deserve a full hearing on a difficult issue for the environment and for landowners along the Keystone XL route. We urge the governor to raise his voice.


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