Nebraska judge strikes down law allowing Keystone pipeline construction to move forward

BY Ellen Rolfes  February 20, 2014 at 11:32 AM EST
Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

While TransCanada moves forward on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in Oklahoma, a court ruling in Nebraska could delay other phases of the 1,179-mile-long pipeline. Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Barack Obama has yet to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, which would stretch 1,179 miles, and carry oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast. But a court decision Wednesday could set back construction in Nebraska, even if the White House gives TransCanada approval to move forward.

A Nebraska judge struck down a law that allowed the pipeline “guarantees” to land along the approved route, The Associated Press reported. A 2012 law had allowed Gov. Dave Heineman, R-Neb., to approve proposed route and gave eminent domain powers to Calgary-based TransCanada if property owners who denied the company access to their land.

Three landowners sued, saying the state’s Public Service Commission should have made that decision, and Judge Stephanie Stacy agreed, ruling the law “unconstitutional and void.”

Opponents of the pipeline say that this ruling will delay any decision from the Nebraska Public Service Commission by at least a year. They also say the State Department will have to wait to finalize their process until the commission releases a decision on the proposed route.

This just the latest action that Nebraskans have taken to fight the controversial Keystone XL. Since 2011, state residents and leaders have been divided over environmental fears and the potential 20,000 jobs that would be created if the pipeline was constructed through the state.

Mr. Obama denied permits for the pipeline’s construction in 2012, because he claimed he did not have time to properly review TransCanada’s proposals.

In January 2014, the State Department released a report that conclude the project would have no major environmental impact.

Jeffrey Brown talked to Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin about next steps for the Keystone XL oil pipeline project after the State Department released the positive environmental impact statement in January.