Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman’s call for a special session on the Keystone XL pipeline came as a bit of a surprise yesterday, since the last we heard was that the speaker of the state legislature was backing down from the idea, concerned about legal action.

The progressive group Bold Nebraska, which has been campaigning aggressively against the pipeline, says its pumpkin-carving event over the weekend helped turn the governor around.

On Saturday, the group called for volunteers to spell out the message “91 leaks and 0 regulations are scary, call a special session Gov. Heineman” with individual jack o’lanterns carved for each letter.

YouTube video

(You may have noticed the title frame of the video says “August 22,” but I’m pretty sure no one was wearing flannel shirts and jackets in Lincoln in August.)

Heineman, a Republican, has in the past been resistant to the idea of calling a special session to establish state regulatory authority over pipelines, saying as recently as September that the issue should be handled via the federal permitting process. Earlier this month, Heineman openly advocated a state effort to reroute the pipeline.

So, did the pumpkins finally move the governor to call legislators back to Lincoln? It’s impossible to say. But it’s pretty clever.

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.