Judge overturns law on pipeline
LINCOLN, Neb.—Just as pressure was building on U.S. President Barack Obama to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from Canada to refineries in Texas, the project ran into another obstacle—and it came again from Nebraska.
A judge’s decision yesterday to overturn a Nebraska law that allowed the pipeline guarantees the legal fight will continue for at least several more months.
The ruling was a victory for pipeline opponents, including environmentalists who say Keystone XL would carry “dirty oil” that contributes to global warming and Nebraska ranchers and farmers who fear it could hurt their water supply.
TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline is critical in Canada’s efforts to export its growing oilsands production.
Supporters say it will create thousands of jobs and move the U.S. toward North American energy independence.
At issue in yesterday’s ruling was a 2012 law that allowed Gov. Dave Heineman to approve the route through Nebraska.
The governor’s approval gave Calgary-based TransCanada the power to use eminent domain on landowners who deny the company access to their property.
Three landowners filed a lawsuit saying the decision should have been made by the Public Service Commission.
Lancaster County Judge Stephanie Stacy agreed.
Attorney General Jon Bruning’s office plans to appeal the ruling to the Nebraska Supreme Court.
A spokesman for TransCanada said company officials were disappointed and disagreed with the decision.
The company planned to review the ruling before deciding how to proceed.
“TransCanada continues to believe strongly in Keystone XL and the benefits it would provide to Americans—thousands of jobs and a secure supply of crude oil from a trusted neighbour in Canada,” said spokesman Shawn Howard.
It’s not the first time Nebraska has been an obstacle in TransCanada’s efforts to complete the pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels of oil daily from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.
An earlier proposed route drew fierce opposition because landowners said it would threaten the Nebraska Sandhills—a region of grass-covered dunes used as ranchland.
That prompted the state legislature to pass a law in 2012 giving Gov. Dave Heineman the authority to approve the route.
The new one he approved goes around an area designated as the Sandhills, although opponents insist it still traverses the delicate soil.
The other states along the pipeline’s route—Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas—already have approved their segments.
Oil already is flowing through the Oklahoma-to-Texas segment.
TransCanada officials have said passing through Nebraska is the most direct, practical way to transport the oil. And re-routing the pipeline would bring new states into the mix and would lead to further expensive delays.