October 26, 2014

Landowner attorney not surprised by State Dept. Keystone XL delay

State Department officials say they will not move on the Keystone XL oil pipeline due to the legal wrangling over the route through Nebraska.

Attorney Dave Domina, who represents the landowners challenging how the state went about authorizing the route, says the latest delay makes sense.

“I’m not at all surprised to hear that the presidential permit process has slowed for a final decision in Nebraska,” Domina tells Nebraska Radio Network. “It’s been the persistent position of the administration that all issues related to where the pipeline will go and how and where it will be built and operated have to be decided before the president will make a final decision about crossing the border.”

The lawsuit challenges the 2012 law approved by the legislature that gives the governor the authority to approve pipeline routes through the state. The lawsuit contends the law violates the state constitution that gives that authority solely to the Public Service Commission.

Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy sided with the landowners and ruled the law unconstitutional.

The legislature approved the 2012 law as a follow-up to an agreement reached with TransCanada during a special legislative session in 2011. LB 1161 gave the governor authority to approve or reject pipeline routes through the state after the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality reviewed proposed routes and made a recommendation.

Judge Stacy ruled the Nebraska State Constitution gives exclusive regulatory control over pipeline companies, such as TransCanada, to the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

Domina has stated in the past that the court ruling effectively rescinds Gov. Dave Heineman’s notification to President Barack Obama that Nebraska legal procedures have been satisfied. TransCanada has no approved route through Nebraska, according to Domina, who adds that the pipeline project is at a standstill in the state.

Domina says it is understandable that the State Department doesn’t want to move forward until the legal process on the route has been satisfied.

“And until the Nebraska process is in place, done correctly, and decided correctly we simply don’t know where the pipeline will go in this state,” according to Domina. “I know there is what TransCanada has called a final route, but no Nebraska authority has passed on the validity or prefer ability or reliability or safety of that route.”

Domina expects the State Department to delay its recommendation on whether TransCanada should be given a presidential permit to cross the border to build the pipeline until the legal issues in Nebraska are settled.

“We think the State Department will defer a decision until Nebraska’s legal process is final and there is a final, approved, lawfully approved, route in Nebraska.”

The southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas, is operating.

The northern portion of Keystone XL is estimated to cost $5.4 billion. It would carry 830,000 barrels of oil sands crude from Canada to the refineries.