TransCanada insists the Nebraska law that led to the re-route of the Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state remains valid, pending the outcome of an appeal to a court ruling striking down the law.
Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled the Nebraska State Constitution gives exclusive regulatory control over pipeline companies, such as TransCanada, to the Nebraska Public Service Commission. The judge ruled the legislature violated the constitution by giving such power to the governor in LB 1161.
Attorney General Jon Bruning immediately filed an appeal of the ruling.
TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard says rarely are legal decisions cut and dried. Though not part of the lawsuit, TransCanada is taking a wait and see attitude while an appeal is pending.
“I think that people just should sit back, give it some time for some clear answers to come forward, but at the same time, let’s tone down some of the rhetoric that some people want to crank up,” Howard tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.
Under TransCanada’s interpretation of the Lancaster County District Court ruling, LB 1161 remains in effect, pending the outcome of the appeal.
TransCanada, according to Howard, continues to work with landowners to secure voluntary easements. Howard says TransCanada has no eminent domain proceedings underway in Nebraska.
The legislature met in special session in 2011 to discuss the Keystone XL pipeline. An agreement reached between the Unicameral and TransCanada re-routed the oil pipeline away from the Sand Hills and on the edge of the Ogallala Aquifer. A refinement made in the 2012 legislature produced LB 1161, which Judge Stacy ruled unconstitutional.
Landowners Randy Thompson, Susan Dunavan, and Susan Luebbe brought the lawsuit against the state after the Unicameral approved the legislation.
The southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline, from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries along the Gulf Coast in Texas, is operating. TransCanada needs permission from President Barack Obama to cross the Canadian border and build the pipeline from western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska.
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.
Meanwhile, Republican governors say President Obama has assured them he will make a decision on Keystone XL within a couple of months.
Kevin Thomas, KLIN, contributed to this report.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]