If State Department officials want to wait until Nebraska legal issues are resolved to make a recommendation on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, they will be waiting quite a long time.
A lawsuit filed by landowners challenges the constitutionality of a 2012 law that gave Gov. Dave Heineman the authority to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline route through Nebraska.
Attorney Dave Domina, a Democratic candidate for US Senate, represents the landowners.
“There are several constitutional issues that will be presented to the Supreme Court. They all come down to this: was the procedure used by the governor to approve the route legal or illegal?”
The lawsuit challenges the 2012 law approved by the legislature that gives the governor the authority to approve pipeline routes through the state. The suit contends the law violates the state constitution that gives that authority 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.
Gov. Heineman had notified President Barack Obama that Nebraska legal procedures concerning the route Keystone XL will take through the state have been satisfied. Domina contends the judge’s ruling makes the governor’s assertion suspect.
Domina says it is understandable that the State Department doesn’t want to move forward until the legal process on the route has been completed.
Completion will likely take some time.
Domina anticipates that he will have to submit briefs to the Nebraska Supreme Court in late July at the earliest, after the Attorney General’s office submits its briefs.
On that schedule, oral arguments will likely occur in September or October. A decision by the state Supreme Court could take weeks or months.
“It will be a while. I don’t think there will be any construction in 2014,” Domina tells Nebraska Radio Network.
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 which would run through Nebraska is estimated to cost $5.4 billion. It would carry 830,000 barrels of oil sands crude from Canada to the refineries.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]