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Opinion - Opinion
 
Brewer at the Legislature: Transmission line development should be transparentTell North Platte what you think
 
Photo by Nebraska Unicameral
Tom Brewer

As most people in the 43rd District already know, the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) has proposed plans to build what is known as the “R Line.”

This is a 345KV transmission line extending from Sutherland to eastern Holt County. This 225-mile high-voltage transmission line will cross the heart of the Nebraska Sandhills.

Many have asked me if “one” of the purposes of the R Line project is to provide for a way to move electricity produced by the possible future development of industrial wind energy projects in the Sandhills - or - does the urgent need for the R Line have nothing to do with whether or not industrial wind energy projects are ever developed in the Sandhills? 

Many residents of the Sandhills feel that industrial wind energy development is entirely unsuitable for this part of our state for a host of reasons.

There is strong citizen-lead opposition to this. I share this view.

As many of you know, I introduced a bill (LB 504) to put a two-year moratorium on the development of industrial wind energy projects in the Sandhills so we can adequately study the total impact these projects will have on the region before building anymore. I’m frustrated this bill remains stuck in the Natural Resources Committee while this issue continues to tear the fabric of the Sandhill’s community apart.

Recently, a private meeting of concerned citizens was held in Thedford where they planned to hear from a representative of the US Fish and Wildlife Service about concerns they had with the Draft Environmental Impact Study for the R Line project.

Apparently, NPPD asked the US Fish and Wildlife Service representative not to speak at the meeting because it was outside of the “public comment period” for the study the citizens had questions about.

The USFWS representative received a call and was instructed not to attend the meeting. Later, people saw individuals in an NPPD vehicle photographing the vehicles of the citizens in the parking lot.

This behavior is unacceptable, and it angers me.

A citizen who faces having land that has been in their family for generations forcibly taken from them by the government through imminent domain deserves to have answers to any and all questions they may have at any time they wish to ask them, from whomever they wish to ask them of.

They certainly do not deserve to have government representatives use these kinds of tactics against them in an effort to deny them their basic right to ask questions and address issues they have with any agency of government, of which NPPD is a sub-division.

Currently, the only oversight of NPPD is their board of directors. Things like this cause me to wonder if additional oversight of NPPD isn’t needed.

As you might imagine, my phone has rung off the hook about this. Like everything else, there are always two sides to every story and NPPD deserves a chance to explain their version of events, so I have a meeting with NPPD executives scheduled in the very near future.

I have also asked the chairmen of both the Government, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee and the Natural Resources Committee to hold public hearings on the subject of the R Line so NPPD officials may testify in a public setting about this.

I would hope they welcome the opportunity to clear the air on this matter.

This issue goes well beyond whether or not the R Line is a good idea. Other infrastructure projects our state needs, now and in the future, will all need one very big thing: public trust. The people must know, without a shred of doubt, that nothing is being hidden from them, that they are being treated fairly, and everything is being done above-board with complete transparency.

You can’t earn that trust by acting untrustworthy, and even though you might end up with more work to do, you’re never wrong by doing the right thing.

Once again I am reminded that all I ever needed to know to be successful in life I learned in Kindergarten: Treat others the way you would like to be treated.

Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at tbrewer@leg.ne.gov or call us at (402) 471-2628.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 8/1/2017
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