Nebraska court dismisses lawsuit on controversial oil pipeline route

Climate Change

Congress Keystone XL pipeline Miles of pipe ready to become part of the Keystone Pipeline are stacked in a field near Ripley, Okla. on Feb. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The Nebraska Supreme Court tossed out a landowner lawsuit Friday, challenging a proposed route for the Keystone XL pipeline.

In a procedural question, four judges on the seven-judge panel agreed that the three landowners had legal standing to bring the case, but a super majority of five judges was needed.

TransCanada President & Chief Executive Officer, Russ Girling said in a statement that the company welcomed the court ruling.
“This decision also means the approved route is valid and removes another delay in making a decision on our Keystone XL Presidential Permit application,” he said.

But the attorneys who filed the case see a victory for their interests in the decision. They say the judges did not decide on the merits of the case, which means it can be refiled with different plaintiffs who fit the court’s description of what constitutes legal standing.

“The decision was a ‘no’ decision, and so all of our legal issues are still able to be brought in court in a new case,” Brian Jorde, attorney for 100 landowners who want to challenge, said. He said he expects to have a decision on whether his clients want to file a new challenge to the state law in the next month.

The lawsuit challenges a 2012 state law, allowing Nebraska’s governor to allow Calgary-based TransCanada to force eastern Nebraska landowners to sell their property for the project.
The 1,900 kilometer pipeline would carry 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Alberta, Canada to heavy oil refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Congress tries to pass law to build Keystone XL

The pipeline needs presidential approval because it would cross the U.S.-Canada border. But the Republican-dominated Congress is trying to pass legislation that would allow the pipeline to be built anyway.
On Friday, members of the U.S House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation that would do just that. The final tally was 266 to 153 with 28 democrats voting in favor. The U.S. Senate is expected to take up the same bill for approval some time in the next two weeks.

“With this obstacle removed from the path of the pipeline’s construction and Congress poised to vote to approve it, it’s time for the White House to stop fabricating excuses and give the project the green light,” said Charles T. Drevna, President of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.

But the White House is continuing its veto threat for the Congressional bill approving the pipeline.

“Regardless of the Nebraska ruling today, the House bill still conflicts with longstanding Executive branch procedures regarding the authority of the President and prevents the thorough consideration of complex issues that could bear on U.S. national interests, and if presented to the President, he will veto the bill,” White House deputy spokesperson Eric Shultz said.

~Reporting from the Associated Press is included in this report.