County board in eastern Nebraska opts against zoning rules that would have affected Keystone

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YORK, Nebraska — Commissioners in eastern Nebraska's York County have decided not to adopt zoning regulations that would have affected the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The board voted 4-1 on Tuesday against setting any zoning regulations on underground transmission lines of any type, according to the York News-Times (http://bit.ly/1BUah0l ).

Board 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, Bamesberger said, state laws on siting and reclamation would pre-empt the proposed regulations.

The proposals included language about pipeline abandonment and depth requirements, setback distances and soil removal.

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 five feet deep. Landowners wanted that provision so any underground line or pipe would not interfere with any landowners' efforts to install or maintain underground irrigation systems.

TransCanada, which wants to run the 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 four feet under the surface. Local utility companies also objected, because they don't usually bury their lines five 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.


Information from: York News-Times, http://www.yorknewstimes.com

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