Keystone XL Pipeline trial could alter plans

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September 27th, 2013

Lincoln, NE — A trial today in Lincoln could affect pipeline company TransCanada’s plans to build the Keystone XL pipeline through Nebraska.

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Three landowners along the route of the proposed oil pipeline are challenging the constitutionality of the law under which Gov. Dave Heineman approved the proposed route in January.

Three landowners along the route of the proposed oil pipeline are challenging the constitutionality of the law under which Gov. Dave Heineman approved the proposed route in January.  (Photo courtesy Nebraska Watchdog)

Three landowners along the route of the proposed oil pipeline are challenging the constitutionality of the law under which Gov. Dave Heineman approved the proposed route in January. (Photo courtesy Nebraska Watchdog)

Their lawsuit argues the Legislature should not have given the governor approval power, because the state constitution gives that to the Public Service Commission. It states the law doesn’t allow judicial review, and improperly lets the governor, not the Legislature, decide who can use eminent domain. It also states the law benefits one company, and fails to set approval standards.

The attorney general’s office disputes all of that. It said the Public Service Commission regulates pipeline operations, not routes, and the Department of Environmental Quality reviewed the route, with public input. It said the law toughened eminent domain by requiring the governor’s approval. It also said the law applies to all major oil pipelines, not just the Keystone XL, and there are sufficient standards in that review.

The trial comes as the State Department completes its environmental impact statement before a final decision on the pipeline that could come early next year. An official said the department does not anticipate the federal review process will be affected by litigation in Nebraska. A TransCanada spokesman said for now, the governor’s approval still stands, and declined to speculate what would happen if the lawsuit succeeds. A lawyer for the landowners says appeals could delay construction by at least two years.

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