43rd District State Senator Tom Brewer of Gordon has made his long-running battle with Nebraska Public Power District over a planned powerline in the Sandhills his priority bill for this season.
The so-called R-Project would stretch more than 200 miles from the Gerald Gentleman Power Station near Sutherland, north to Thedford, and then east to Clearwater.
Brewer’s bill calls for a two-year moratorium on construction while the Legislature conducts a study of the project. He says the idea is to “slow the wheels down to make sure it’s the right course of action.”
Brewer says the 43rd District is the one most affected by the R-Line, making it an important issue for his constituents – which they made clear by consistently bringing it up as he campaigned for reelection last year.
Critics say the R-Line is intended to encourage the development of more large wind farms, posing damage to the fragile Sandhills environment during construction while the wind turbines and transmission towers will spoil the beauty of the region.
Supporters say the line will promote economic development, including wind farms, with NPPD saying it will also improve the reliability of electric service in the region.
A federal judge ruled last summer that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hadn’t adequately considered the impact of the line when it granted a permit.
The ruling halted the project, at least temporarily, but NPPD’s website says the R-Line is still needed with the utility continuing to work on finding a route. Brewer says it could take another, less disruptive route.
As Brewer’s priority bill, the chances are improved that make it to floor debate, but it must first pass the Unicameral executive board and Omaha Senator John McCollister, a board member and wind power backer, doesn’t think the bill will get a friendly reception