Natural ResourcesSession Review 2024

Session Review: Natural Resources

Bills intended to ensure the reliability of the electric grid and better balance the conservation of Nebraska’s threatened and endangered species with highway maintenance were among those advanced by the Natural Resources Committee this session.

Omnibus bill

Under LB867, introduced by Brainard Sen. Bruce Bostelman, the state Game and Parks Commission may maintain a hunting and fishing guide and outfitter database on its website and charge a registration fee to administer it. Applicants who meet the bill’s requirements will be placed in the database for three years.

Also included in LB867 are the provisions of six other bills heard by the committee this session.

The amended provisions of LB866, also sponsored by Bostelman, eliminate a requirement that at least one member of the Nebraska Power Review Board be an accountant and increase the number of consecutive terms a member may serve from two to three.

The bill allows no more than one person who has been a director, officer or employee of any electric utility or an elective state officer to serve on the board at the same time.

The bill also increases the per diem for most board members from $60 to $100 and raises the cap on total annual pay from $6,000 to $7,000.

The amended provisions of LB868, introduced by Bostelman, extend the Petroleum Release Remedial Action Cash Fund’s sunset date from June 30, 2024, to June 30, 2028. They also direct investment earnings to the fund and repeal a provision allowing transfers to the state’s General Fund.

The amended provisions of LB971, sponsored by Sen. Loren Lippincott of Central City, require the commission to issue upon application a free, one-day hunting permit, habitat stamp and Nebraska migratory waterfowl stamp to any veteran who is a Nebraska resident and was discharged or separated under honorable conditions.

The permit and stamps are valid only on Veterans Day in the year in which they are issued.

The amended provisions of LB1001, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad, require the commission to establish a migratory waterfowl hunting season for veterans and members of the armed forces during which those individuals may hunt as long as they have a valid hunting permit and all required stamps.

The amended provisions of LB1406, sponsored by Sen. Rita Sanders of Bellevue, require the commission to offer an annual park entry permit to active-duty military members who are stationed in Nebraska. The fee is $5, regardless of residency.

Finally, the provisions of LB636, introduced by Thurston Sen. Joni Albrecht, prohibit political subdivisions from enacting any ordinance or other policy that restricts or prohibits the types or fuel sources of energy that natural gas utilities, natural gas transmission companies and certain other entities may use or deliver to serve customers.

LB867 passed on a vote of 47-0 and took effect immediately.

Power generation

LB1370, introduced by Bostelman, requires public power districts and other public power entities to provide notice to the Nebraska Power Review Board prior to a final decision on whether a dispatchable electric generation facility with a capacity of more than 100 megawatts should be retired.

After receiving notice of the proposed decommissioning, the board may hold a hearing, which will be closed to the public. Regardless of whether a hearing is held, the board must provide written recommendations as to whether the closure is in the best interests of the entity and its customers.

Recommendations are advisory only, but the entity is required to consider them before making a final decision.

The bill’s requirements do not apply to any decision to retire a facility made prior to the bill’s effective date.

LB1370 also includes provisions of four other measures considered by the committee this session.

The amended provisions of LB120, introduced by Bostelman last session, require electric suppliers to provide written notice to the Power Review Board before commencing construction on or acquiring certain electric generation facilities or transmission lines located within a 10-mile radius of a military installation. A similar requirement applies to the owner of a privately developed renewable energy generation facility.

The notice will certify that the facilities contain no materials, electronics or other components manufactured by any foreign government or foreign nongovernment person determined to be a foreign adversary under federal regulations.

An electric supplier is exempt from the requirement if it certifies to the board that it complies with the critical infrastructure protection requirements issued by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

The bill also allows a private developer to certify that they are in compliance with the NERC requirements if the facility is connected to the grid under certain conditions.

The amended provisions of LB956, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Eliot Bostar, require an owner of a wind energy conversion system to apply to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval to install and operate light-mitigating technology on the system before it begins operation, after it commences a substantial physical modification — or repower — or after extending, renewing or executing a power purchase agreement in certain circumstances.

The requirement goes into effect July 1, 2025.

The bill requires an owner to install the technology on wind turbines within two years of receiving FAA approval. The owner of a system existing prior to July 1, 2025, that does not commence a repower is required to install the technology on or before July 1, 2035.

The amended provisions of LB969, introduced by Sen. Barry DeKay of Niobrara, increase the minimum dollar amount thresholds of certain projects for which a public power district is required to advertise for sealed bids.

The provisions of LB1260, sponsored by North Platte Sen. Mike Jacobson, allow a director of a public power and irrigation district to have an interest in a residential lease or water service agreement with the district and to discuss or vote on those agreements.

Lawmakers voted 40-0 to pass LB1370, which took effect immediately.

Certain developers of energy generation facilities in Nebraska will be required to hold a public meeting regarding their plans under another bill advanced by the committee.

Under LB399, introduced by Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon and passed 46-0, the applicant for any proposed electric generation or privately developed renewable energy generation facility with a generating capacity greater than 10 megawatts must hold at least one public meeting with advance notice in one of the counties in which the proposed facility will be located.

At least 50% of the governing body of the electric supplier must attend the meeting either in person or by videoconference and at least one member must be physically present. Real property owners must have an opportunity to comment on the proposed facility and a report of the meeting must be provided to the Nebraska Power Review Board.

The bill’s provisions do not apply if the proposed facility will be located on real property owned by the applicant at the time of the application.

LB399 also changes a requirement for filing a decommissioning plan for private energy suppliers from the tenth year of operation to the sixth year.

Other measures

Under LB1335, sponsored by Columbus Sen. Mike Moser, the Nebraska Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act will not apply to any action of state agencies, political subdivisions or their contractors when designing, constructing, reconstructing, repairing, operating or maintaining transportation infrastructure, with some exceptions.

The act will apply to any initial action by an exempt party that creates new transportation infrastructure in areas not previously dedicated to the exempt party’s lawful duties or any subsequent action that increases the area of existing transportation infrastructure, which includes roads, streets and highways.

LB1335 also requires state agencies to ensure, in consultation with the state Game and Parks Commission, that any action authorized, funded or carried out by the agency is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat.

Under the bill, public roads, streets, highways and any associated right-of-way are considered manmade structures and are not critical habitat for purposes of NESCA.

As part of the consultation process, the commission can permit an agency’s incidental taking of an endangered or threatened species.

LB1335 also requires an exempted party to consider a transportation project’s impact on endangered or threatened species and restore areas of temporary disturbance on real property it owns after construction, reconstruction, repair, operation or maintenance, to the extent it deems practical.

The bill passed on a 35-3 vote.

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