August 23, 2014

Lawyer denies lawsuit is attempt to stop Keystone XL (AUDIO)

A lawyer representing three landowners challenging the constitutionality of oil pipeline regulations approved by the legislature this year denies their lawsuit is aimed at stopping the Keystone XL pipeline.

Omaha attorney David Domina insists the lawsuit’s aim is not directed at the Keystone XL pipeline. He says the aim is directed toward the legislation.

“This lawsuit is very much designed in trying to insure that the constitution is honored by what the legislature enacts,” according to Domina.

The Unicameral, during the regular session this year, approved LB 1161, a revision of oil pipeline regulation legislation approved in the special session last year. During the special session, TransCanada agreed to re-route the Keystone XL pipeline around the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills. President Obama this year, though, denied TransCanada’s permit to bring the pipeline into the country from western Canada, throwing doubt on whether the legislation approved last year remain valid.

The president left open the possibility for TransCanada to reapply, which is has. Lawmakers, eager to get the project back on track, moved during the session to update the legislation approved last year. TransCanada has worked with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and HDR of Omaha to determine a new route with the company picking up the $2 million cost of the new study.

The lawsuit [PDF file of lawsuit] claims the law violates the separation of powers and due process provisions in the Nebraska constitution. The three landowners are bringing the lawsuit as state taxpayers. The proposed new route does not go through their land.

The sponsor of LB 1161, Sen. Jim Smith of Papillion, tells Nebraska Radio Network he hasn’t read the lawsuit and since he’s not a lawyer, he won’t comment on the content of it. Smith does say he believes the law is sound.

“I do believe in listening to the debate and the discussion and the issues that arose that I believed it to be constitutional,” Smith says. “That’s why I put it forward and I would not have done it otherwise.”

Smith adds that Keystone is one of several projects across the country that the nation needs completed to provide energy.

The lawsuit asks the State Supreme Court to take it up directly. As a back-up, it has been filed in Lancaster County as well.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:35]