Keystone pipeline path illegal, foes tell Nebraska court

By Andrew Harris
Bloomberg News

Nebraska landowners opposed to the proposed $5.4 billion Keystone XL pipeline urged the state’s highest court to uphold a judge’s ruling invalidating the route mapped by Governor Dave Heineman and TransCanada Corp.

The property owners urged the state Supreme Court to uphold a February ruling effectively blocking the pipeline. District Court Judge Stephanie Stacy in Lincoln declared TransCanada a common carrier like a railroad. As such, a 2012 law giving the governor control over the path violated a part of the state constitution vesting power in the Public Service Commission.

TransCanada “offers pipeline structures for transportation services, like taxis offer rides to passengers for a fee, and truckers offer cartage for dollars per mile,” the landowners said in a June 20 legal brief. “The currently-proposed pipeline is a structure that will transport crude oil for hire.”

TransCanada, based in Calgary, seeks to build a 1,179-mile (1,897-kilometer) conduit capable of carrying 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect to an existing network. Supporters say Keystone will create jobs and promote energy independence. Opponents say petroleum derived from Alberta’s oil sands will contribute to global warming.

‘No competitor’

The decision on whether to approve Keystone will fall to President Barack Obama, who may wait until the Nebraska court rules. The judges have yet to schedule arguments, and a decision may not come until after Congress’s midterm elections.

Heineman, a Republican who’s leaving office on Dec. 31, and state Attorney General Jon Bruning, a Republican running to succeed him, argued in April that the three landowners pressing the case haven’t shown they’ve been injured by the plan and lack standing to sue.

David Domina, the landowners’ lawyer and a Democrat seeking a U.S. Senate seat, said his clients have been harmed.

“There is no competitor, different regulator, or differently affected landowner to bring this suit,” he said in a phone interview. “The state belongs to the citizens, and they are its saving watchfulness.”

The case is Thompson v. Heineman, S-14-000158, Nebraska Supreme Court (Lincoln).