Court finds Keystone XL siting law unconstitutional; Bruning to appeal
February 20th, 2014
Omaha, NE –Â Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy issued her long-awaited ruling Wednesday. In it, she said the law passed by the Legislature in 2012 giving the governor power to approve the pipeline route in the state violates the Nebraska Constitution.
â€œEssentially what the courtâ€™s ruling means is that TransCanada has no approved route in Nebraska; it has no authority to exercise eminent domain in Nebraskaâ€ said David Domina, who represented the landowners challenging the law.
The ruling hinged on a section of the Nebraska Constitution that gives the stateâ€™s Public Service Commission the power to regulate what are known as â€œcommon carriers.â€ In her decision, Judge Stacy held that oil pipelines are common carriers, and therefore the law passed by the Legislature violates the constitution.
She said Gov. Dave Heinemanâ€™s approval of the pipeline route in January of last year is null and void, Â and state officials are prohibited from taking any actions based on that decision.
Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, sponsor of LB1161, the bill the Legislature passed giving the governor route approval authority, said heâ€™s disappointed in the decision.
â€œIn 2012 the Legislature discussed LB1161 at length â€“ at great length â€“ and 44 members of the Unicameral as well as the governor thought that we had passed good legislation,â€ Smith said.
Jane Kleeb of the anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska said in a published statement, “Citizens won today. We beat a corrupt bill that Gov. Heineman and the Nebraska Legislature passed in order to pave the way for a foreign corporation to run roughshod over American landowners.â€
Shawn Howard, spokesman for TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline, said that company is disappointed and disagrees with the decision.
Even though it had 30 days to decide, within hours of Judge Stacyâ€™s decision, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruningâ€™s office announced it would appeal. Heineman spokeswoman Jen Rae Wang hailed that announcement.
â€œThe governor is pleased that Attorney General Bruning is appealing that decision. He feels that this is an important issue for the state of Nebraska,â€ Wang said.
In Washington, where the State Department is analyzing whether or not the proposed pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Texas is in the national interest, a spokesman said the departmentâ€™s aware of the Nebraska decision, but would not comment about ongoing litigation.
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