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Common sense solutions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 01 December 2011 22:10

Dear Fellow Nebraskans

By Gov. Dave Heineman


The special session of the Nebraska Legislature is over and Nebraska now has an oil pipeline siting process. I signed LB 1 and LB 4 into law on Tuesday, November 22nd.

LB 4 will address the circumstances that exist regarding the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. The Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality will now work with the U.S. Department of State to develop a Memorandum of Understanding on how to move forward.

Additionally, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality will contract with an engineering firm to conduct a supplemental environmental impact statement of any new pipeline segments that avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills area of Nebraska. Once this process is completed, the findings of the supplemental environmental impact statement will be submitted for my review.

As Governor, I am required to recommend to the U.S. Department of State the approval or disapproval of the proposed route. The Obama Administration will then make the final decision about building the Keystone XL Pipeline.

LB1 outlines the procedures for siting any future oil pipeline in the State of Nebraska. This law will require an oil pipeline carrier proposing to construct a major oil pipeline to be placed in operation in Nebraska after November 23, 2011, to file an application with the Public Service Commission and receive approval before beginning construction.

Extensive procedures are contained in the law for the Commission to follow before it ultimately decides whether a proposed oil pipeline would serve the public interest.

I want to thank the citizens of Nebraska for their thoughtful, sincere comments during this process.

You expressed your opinions at two State Department hearings in Atkinson and Lincoln in late September.

You shared your thoughts at three days of public hearings during the special session of the Legislature.

Several members of the Legislature and I had separate meetings with the U.S. Department of State about Nebraska’s concerns. These meetings were useful, productive and positive.

I really appreciate the work of the Legislature during the special session.

The end result is a Nebraska common sense solution that is reflected in LB 1 and LB 4.

Citizen input made the difference.

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 December 2011 22:12
Moon-gazing in DecemberMoon-gazing in December PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 01 December 2011 22:09

What's Up

By Vernon Whetstone


Well troops, astronomically speaking, there is not much going on this week. Of course, there is always something going on, but we, as humans, think in terms of something big or else it is not interesting.

Tonight (Wednesday) will be a good opportunity to locate one of the dim outer gas giant planets, Neptune. The moon will be a help. Go to your favorite dark-sky place with your binoculars and look in the south for the crescent moon.

About six degrees — a little more than the width of the binocular field of view — look for a tiny blue-green dot to the right of the moon. The planet will look different than the stars around it, the planet will not be twinkling. The moon will visit Neptune again on Dec. 28 if you miss it this time.

The bright dot to the lower right of the moon is Venus. It is making a nice evening presentation for the next several weeks. It is rising higher each evening and will visit Neptune on Jan. 12.

Below and left of the moon/Neptune pair is our old friend Fomalhaut, the loneliest star in the sky. I say “lonely” because there are no other stars to be seen around it.

Fomalhaut is the brightest star in the constellation Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish. While Fomalhaut is a first magnitude star, all the other stars in the constellation are much dimmer at fourth and fifth magnitude. I always make it a point to say hello when I see it, just so it won’t be so lonely you know.

On Dec. 3 use the moon again to locate another of the outer gas giants, this time Uranus will be visited. Again the pair will be slightly beyond the width of the binocular field of view. The planet will be directly below the first quarter moon.

Jupiter, another of the outer gas giants, is still holding place as the king of the evening sky. Look about half-way up the eastern sky about an hour after sunset. The bright stars to the lower left of Jupiter are Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, the Bull and further left is Capella, the brightest star in Auriga, the Charioteer.

If you are a morning person, about an hour before sunrise another of the outer gas giants, this time Saturn, will be pairing up with the bright star Spica in the southeast.

Wow, for not much happening, that all seems like a lot. There will be a total lunar eclipse on Saturday, Dec. 10. More about that next time.


Vernon Whetstone of Benkelman is the “stargeezer” who compiles “What’s Up.” He can be reacher at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 December 2011 22:10
Red Cross offers ‘Top 10’ fire safety tips ahead of Thanksgiving PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Wednesday, 23 November 2011 21:54

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the American Red Cross encourages families to prevent kitchen fires by taking some basic safety measures.

In the U.S., Thanksgiving is the peak day for cooking fires, 90 percent of which are caused by unattended cooking.

“We all think of Thanksgiving as a time for family, good food and football, but it’s also prime time for cooking fires,” said Tina Labellarte, Region CEO. “Taking a few simple precautions can help everyone have a safe and happy holiday.”

To keep Thanksgiving fire-free, the public should follow these ten tips:

1. Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.

2. If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.

3. Be alert. You won’t be alert if you are sleepy, have taken medicine or drugs, or consumed alcohol that makes you drowsy.

4. Keep anything that can catch fire — potholders, wooden utensils, food wrappers, towels or curtains — away from your stove top.

5. Make sure your sleeves are out of the way when cooking. Wear tighter fitting clothing with shorter sleeves.

6. Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

7. Never hold a child while cooking, drinking or carrying hot foods or liquids.

8. Turn the handles of pots and pans on the stove inward to avoid accidents.

9. Keep pets off cooking surfaces and nearby countertops to prevent them from knocking things onto the burner.

10. Test your smoke alarms by pushing the test button. Replace batteries at least once a year.


Year-round safety

In addition to preventing cooking fires, families can stay safe all year by following these additional tips:

• Keep items that can catch on fire at least three feet away from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.

• Never smoke in bed.

• Talk to children regularly about the dangers of fire, matches and lighters and keep them out of reach.

• Turn portable heaters off when you leave the room or go to sleep.


Smoke alarms

• Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Check monthly that smoke alarms are working properly by pushing the test button.

• At least once a year, replace the batteries in your smoke alarms; every 10 years, replace the entire smoke alarm.


Make a Fire Escape Plan

• Make sure all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home.

• Decide where you will meet outside in case of fire.

• Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year and at different times of the day. Practice waking up to smoke alarms, low crawling and meeting outside. Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.

• Teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.

For more information about fire safety and prevention visit


About the American Red Cross: The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation’s blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or join our blog at


Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 21:55
Enjoy a safe holiday season PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Wednesday, 23 November 2011 21:52

Dear Fellow Nebraskans

By Gov. Dave Heineman


My wife and I recently attended the Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) news conference to kick off their annual “Tie One On for Safety” campaign.

The purpose of this campaign is for citizens to tie a red ribbon on their car antenna as a commitment to prevent drunk driving.

I appreciate the work of MADD and all of our safety partners who encourage every Nebraskan to celebrate the holiday season by staying safe and sober.

My wife serves on the National Mothers Against Drunk Driving board and we are pleased to announce that Nebraska was just awarded a five star rating for their work in adoption and following drunk driving countermeasures.

With the holidays approaching, I’d like to highlight several safety tips for those who will be traveling on Nebraska roadways.

Holiday times mean increased traffic, coupled with the potential for wintry weather. All of us need to be vigilant when we get behind the wheel.

The best and most effective way to prevent an injury in a crash is wearing a seat belt.

Last year, 190 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes on Nebraska roads, and 82 people were not wearing their seat belt.

Many accidents can be prevented if drivers will avoid distractions. Devoting our full attention to driving is crucial to keep our roadways safe.

Grant funds provided by Nebraska Office of Highway Safety allows for law enforcement to concentrate extra hours on holidays and special enforcements.

Throughout the holiday season the Nebraska State Patrol will join with 65 local law enforcement partners in two statewide highway safety campaigns to help ensure safe roadways for travelers.

The “Click It or Ticket” campaign targets seat belt and child restraint use and runs during the Thanksgiving holiday week. The “You Drink, You Drive, You Lose” campaign targets impaired driving and runs through the month of December.

These special enforcement efforts are designed to save lives, by raising awareness of the need to wear seat belts and never drive impaired or distracted.

With winter just around the corner, please consider these driving tips:

• Adjust your speed and never travel faster than conditions allow.

• Slick surfaces make it difficult to steer and stop.

• Turn off the cruise control when roads are wet and snowy.

• Be sure to allow plenty of time and distance to react.

• Exercise caution on bridges and overpasses.

• Keep your headlights on and make sure they are cleaned off.

• Remember to allow plenty of time to reach your destination.

If you witness an impaired or reckless driver, dial the Nebraska State Patrol Highway Helpline at *55 from any cellular phone or 1-800-525-5555 from a landline.

Highway safety is a partnership. It is vital that drivers and passengers commit to staying safe, sober, focused and buckle every time they are in a vehicle. I encourage every Nebraskan to do whatever it takes to help ensure the safety of their families and fellow travelers we want you to arrive safely to your destinations this holiday season and all year long.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 November 2011 21:54
Nebraska’s pipeline legislation has little room for error PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Tuesday, 22 November 2011 17:44

Capitol Commentary

By Charlie Litton

Nebraska News Service


When the first two weeks of the Nebraska Legislature’s special pipeline session drew to a close, it remained difficult to guess what the end result will be of all this bickering.

But common themes are beginning to emerge, and they might give us some insight on what to expect as the pipeline debate continues.

From the beginning, including Gov. Dave Heineman’s call on Oct. 25, lawmakers have been extraordinarily cautious about what to expect.

Boiled down to most basic terms, they all seemed to be saying: “We’ll try, but don’t get your hopes up.”

It would be easy to look at that sentiment with a cynical eye and suppose the special session is little more than political grandstanding for elected officials who are only thinking about getting re-elected.

In truth, Nebraska senators have a very thin margin of error if they enact a law that would stop, delay or reroute the Keystone XL project — TransCanada’s controversial 1,700-mile, 36-inch pipeline that proposes to pump oil through the Sandhills and the massive underlying water table on its way to Gulf Coast refineries.

The governor’s call was superficially vague, asking senators to look into legislation that related to oil pipelines. And to do so in a legally and constitutionally sound way. The problem for senators is they can’t enact a law specifically designed to stop TransCanada because the courts generally frown on laws that don’t apply to everyone equally.

So a law that says, in effect, “TransCanada Shall Not Pass,” would likely be deemed unconstitutional.

Of course, lawmakers could get around this by enacting a law that applies to all pipelines, which sounds simple enough. Only, the governor’s call was specific to legislating “oil” pipelines, which limits the Unicameral to that small corner of the pipeline sandbox.

A lot of lawmaker chatter in committee meetings revolves around this sticky issue. It seems the growing consensus is that a law specific to oil pipelines of a certain size, say 30-inches, might be enough to avoid the dreaded “special legislation” tag.

It seems a certainty that some form of oil pipeline legislation will emanate from the special session, most likely a “Frankenstein” bill that draws elements from all five of the pipeline-related proposals.

Such bill might include a permitting process through the Public Service Commission, with a final approval from the governor’s office. And that approval process might very well include routing requirements that make the Sandhills and other areas strictly off-limits. It’s also possible that companies would be required to post a hefty clean-up bond, while following new, more stringent rules about securing rights from private landowners, commonly referred to as eminent domain law.

Such a bill would go a long way to address most of the concerns from Nebraska pipeline opponents.

But the big mystery remains whether a new law would affect the Keystone XL project. The best guess at this point is that question will be at the center of debate when these bills reach the Unicameral floor.


CHARLIE LITTON is a columnist with the Nebraska News Service. Litton can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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