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Nebraska lawsuit could throw another obstacle in Keystone XL’s path

By   /   September 27, 2013  /   12 Comments

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN – While much of the nation is waiting on the White House to give the Keystone XL pipeline a green light, or not, a lawsuit that went to trial today in Nebraska has the potential to throw yet another obstacle in the path of the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline across America.

STYMIED: A Nebraska lawsuit could throw another obstacle in the path of the Keystone XL pipeline.

STYMIED: A Nebraska lawsuit could throw another obstacle in the path of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Three landowners who oppose the pipeline filed the lawsuit against the state, challenging the constitutionality of a law passed last year that changed the pipeline route approval process. The bill, LB1161, gave the governor and state environmental regulators authority to approve or deny the revised route through Nebraska, rather than the Public Service Commission.

Pipeline fighters in Nebraska have long claimed TransCanada, the Canadian company trying to get the Keystone XL pipeline approved, basically wrote the bill. The lawsuit also contends lawmakers didn’t have the authority to grant a foreign company condemnation powers.

Brian Jorde, an Omaha attorney helping represent the landowners, said if the process used to approve the route through Nebraska is deemed unconstitutional, TransCanada would have to go back to square one with the siting process. While a federal permit is required because the route crosses an international border, Nebraska oversees the 195 miles through Nebraska. TransCanada has already revised its route through Nebraska once.

Photo courtesy of Bold Nebraska

FIGHTING: Cattle buyer Randy Thompson of Nebraska is one of three landowners challenging the constitutionality of a law governing the siting of the Keystone XL oil pipeline in Nebraska.

TransCanada has said the company is confident the law is constitutional and will continue securing easements in Nebraska, even though if landowners prevail the siting process could drag out for years, with appeals.

“It could take a year or more but if you’re a pipeline carrier, are you going to invest hundreds of millions to be told that route is not valid?” Jorde said.

The landowners are requesting an injunction that would prevent TransCanada from beginning construction in Nebraska. But if that is denied and the company gets a green light from the feds and starts building the pipeline through Nebraska, they risk the possibility of having a court tell them to start over.

“It’s a business decision,” Jorde said. “It’s a risk.”

Since the lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of a law, the trial only lasted about an hour, with oral arguments and no witnesses. Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy will rule later. Stacy has twice rejected the attorney general’s attempts to have the case thrown out.

“If we are successful in our lawsuit TransCanada will have to start the Keystone XL siting process over again through the Nebraska Public Service Commission, so it would be premature for the State Department to issue a final EIS when the route across Nebraska remains very much in question,” said Randy Thompson, one of the plaintiffs and a prominent spokesman for the anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska.

“As citizens, we are asking the State Department to respect the legal process and our state’s constitution.”

Contact Deena Winter at [email protected].

Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.


Deena formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Ricky Fulton

    Looks like Jim Smith of Papillion and Governor Heineman screwed up by passing an unconstitutional bill. It’s all over Lee Terry, you have lost.
    Same goes for sell yourself for money Barry Rubin and sell out Ron Kaminski; you lost.

  • Dave

    Good luck land owners!

  • D. Mark

    There is so much B.S. with this pipeline that the information we get is confusing?
    Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada stated that “The pipeline would create 40,000 jobs in the United States.”
    The information that I have is that his pipeline would take about 2 and one-half years to build, it would create around 3,000 to 4,000 jobs with about 35 permanent jobs when it is completed? The end product out of the refinery would be exported? Your President said that it would create very few jobs!
    If it would only create 3,000 to 4,000 jobs and the end product would be exported, and it could create havoc in the future, why would we want it going across the United States of America?

  • HuGnu

    Just follow the money trail.
    Who is contributing to Lee Terry that may have financial interest in the Pipeline?
    So far the jobs created by the Pipeline are going to the attorneys and the politicians.

  • Curious

    Those of us who believe we must save the planet are behind you land owners 100%….By the way anti believer did you see on National news…Boulder water supply polluted by oil spills as a result of flash flooding. Drilling was just started in the beautiful Rockies a couple of years ago.

  • TacoJoe

    Yep, Ron is a sellout to the Union Brothers and Sisters he represents! NOT!

  • Ricky Fulton

    Kaminski sold out Nebraska for a few temporary jobs. But I am not worried that thing will never be built.
    Rubin and Kaminski ought to be ashamed of themselves aligning with the conservative Republicans like Lee Terry.

  • Watching_From_Lincoln

    The ONLY thing that Rubin and Kaminski represent are the increased balances in their bank ledgers thanks to the money given to them by TransCanada and the Koch brothers, funneled through Americans For Prosperity to remove the Tarsands stench from it. Like Terry Lee, give them enough money and they will say or do anything for their masters.

  • danny

    And Terry Lee fits both cateories.

  • Dave Fall

    Another great article Deena! Thanks for covering..

  • Ricky Fulton

    That is very disappointed to hear. I was a union member for 32 years but do NOT support the pipeline. Few jobs will come of it.
    And Rubin was a Democrat at one point and to see him align himself with the conservatives like Terry is bad.
    Money talks I guess.

  • ProgresiveOasis

    Thank you all anti-XL folks. I truly mean that since you are getting close to accomplishing your objective…the XL is less and less likely to be built. Dick Holland and Warren Buffet thank you…BNSF tank cars will remain full of crude from North Dakota and face no new competition from an expanded XL. Berkshire Hathaway will continue to profit. As a holder of KMP myself, I thank you for insuring their TransMoutain pipeline expansion project will be a huge success guaranteeing me excellent returns for decades as tar sands crude moves directly west for export over the all Canadian route. Besides, with Obama still in office who needs to be concerned about anemic economic and employment growth here in the USA…don’t worry, be happy!!!