TransCanada and the proposed $8 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline have returned to the Capitol as an issue before the Unicameral.
The Judiciary Committee heard hours of testimony on LB 473, which would not allow a foreign company to use eminent domain to acquire easements for a pipeline and would remove the power of approving a pipeline route from the governor and give it to the Public Service Commission.
Opponents of Keystone XL showed up in force to protest TransCanada’s plans to build the pipeline through Nebraska and that singular focus led some to conclude that the bill might run into constitutional problems.
Even the attorney who has sued TransCanada on behalf of landowners fighting the company saw problems with the bill
Lawyer Dave Domina of Omaha tells committee members the bill appears aimed only at TransCanada, which would make it unconstitutional.
“I will tell you frankly that on its face, I see special legislation issues, but that’s not a criticism, it’s an observation about the probable purpose of this dialogue,” Domina testifies.
Landowner Susan Dunavan complains that TransCanada has threatened her with eminent domain.
“I have learned what it feels like to receive eminent domain threats,” Dunavan says. “I have received three threats in the last seven years. Two were set before the company had authority to do so and one was filed in our York County court.”
Yet, TransCanada’s Andy Craig says it came as a surprise to him that landowners consider the company notice a threat.
“I have determined through the testimony today that many of these people felt that the letter I sent, explaining where the project was and our eventual use of eminent domain if necessary was threatening,” Craig tells committee members.
TransCanada has withdrawn any potential eminent domain proceedings until Nebraska courts rule on existing law. Meanwhile, the company awaits President Barack Obama’s decision on whether it will be granted a permit to cross the northern border to construct the pipeline from western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska.
The company proposes building the pipeline to transport oil produced from the oil sands of western Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast.
Kevin Thomas, KLIN, contributed to this report.