The lawsuit was filed with the Nebraska Supreme Court and district court. TransCanada’s second attempt at getting permits for a pipeline across Nebraska – as part of a larger pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast refineries – is being handled according to legislation passed by state lawmakers in April.
However, anti-pipeline group Bold Nebraska says the new law reversed many rules and regulations passed during the special session in November – when lawmakers brokered a deal with TransCanada to reroute the pipeline around Nebraska’s ecologically fragile Sandhills.
In response to the lawsuit, a spokesman for TransCanada released the following statement: “TransCanada is aware of the lawsuit but we cannot comment directly on it because it is between private landowners and the State of Nebraska. We continue to work collaboratively with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality on defining a new route for Keystone XL that avoids the Sandhills. We continue to be committed to the Keystone XL project, which recent polls have shown is supported by the vast majority of Nebraskans.”
The new law (LB1161) requires the state Department of Environmental Quality to conduct the environmental review of the new route, although Gov. Dave Heineman has final say in approving the new path. Bold Nebraska says the law allows the governor to grant TransCanada immediate authority to take people’s land through condemnation, or eminent domain, without having to wait for federal permits. The group contends that critical steps and transparency were eliminated with the new law, “giving land to a foreign country through eminent domain insufficient review or oversight.”
The lawsuit challenges the authority of the DEQ to handle the environmental review, rather than the Public Service Commission, which normally regulates oil pipelines. The suit also contends the law is special legislation targeted at TransCanada and violates the separation of powers doctrine by failing to provide for judicial review and unlawfully gives the governor the power to permit eminent domain without adequate due process.
Thompson, whose family owns land in the path of the revised route, said in a press statement that he decided to challenge the law because lawmakers shouldn’t craft special legislation to meet the demands of a corporation.
“I am also strongly opposed to the eminent domain provisions of this bill, which, as written, would allow a foreign corporation to condemn Nebraska properties prior to having a permit to construct their project within our borders,” he said.
Another landowner suing the governor is Susan Dunavan, who said she got involved in the case because native prairie grasslands that she’s spent more than 30 years protecting is being threatened by a foreign pipeline.
“I am also here to be a voice for future generations,” she said. “Our Legislature and Governor gave special favors to a foreign corporation but did not listen to their own Nebraska constituents.”
Gov. Dave Heineman said Thursday that the landowners are welcome to file a lawsuit and he’s not surprised Bold Nebraska did so, since they oppose any pipeline and will do whatever it takes to try to stop the project.
He said he doesn’t have doubts about the constitutionality of the law, but added, “I’m not a lawyer.” He said he’s pleased with the environmental review DEQ is conducting — in which four possible routes will be narrowed down to one. He said the route must go around the Sandhills — which he said the four alternatives do — and must meet environmental criteria.
“We’re not stopping until a court tells us to stop,” he said.
Reported by Deena Winter, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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