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Nebraska Supreme Court Rules On Keystone XL Pipeline

Environment Politics Tribune News Service

Nebraska Supreme Court Rules On Keystone XL Pipeline

Environmental activists protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, in New York on May 13, 2013

By Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday removed a serious hurdle to construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, ruling that Republican Gov. Dave Heineman has the authority to approve the project’s route without review by a state agency.

A 2012 law allows Heineman to bypass the state Public Service Commission and give the $5.3-billion project the go-ahead. In February, a lower court declared that law unconstitutional and left the troubled pipeline with no approved route through Nebraska.

The action Friday struck down the lower court’s ruling and cleared the way for the Obama administration to decide whether to grant final approval for the project.

The proposed pipeline would transport oil from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Neb. From there, it would tie into a southern leg, already in operation, which would transport the oil to the Gulf Coast.

“In a split decision, Supreme Court is allowing LB1161 to stand,” Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, an anti-pipeline group, tweeted early Friday. “4 of the justices ruled w/ landowners, but we needed 5. Its up to Obama.”

“Because there are not five judges of this court ruling on the constitutionality of L.B. 1161, the legislation must stand by default,” the decision said. “Accordingly, we vacate the district court’s judgment.”

Environmentalists argue that the extraction and production of tar sands — also known as oil sands — are significantly more damaging to the climate than conventional oil deposits, and they contend that blocking the pipeline would impede development of the fossil fuel.

Anthony Swift, staff attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, describes tar sands as a very thick, heavy crude oil with the consistency of “peanut butter at room temperature, somewhere between coal and oil.”

The material, he said, is “very energy-intensive to get out of the ground.” Mining consists of “stripping the oldest boreal forests in the world and strip-mining, using large amounts of water.”

Or, he said, “it’s done through drilling and pumping steam into the ground to melt it out of the ground. It’s incredibly destructive at the upstream, very carbon-intensive and has substantial impact on the indigenous populations in the area.”

The pipeline, which TransCanada calls “the largest infrastructure project currently proposed in the United States,” would carry 830,000 barrels a day, and construction of the pipeline alone would create 9,000 jobs for skilled American workers.

In addition, manufacturing the steel pipe, fittings, valves, pumps and control devices required for the project would create an estimated 7,000 jobs, the company says.

“The Canadian Energy Research Institute predicts that Keystone XL will add $172 billion to America’s gross domestic product by 2035,” the company said on its website, “and will create an additional 1.8 million person-years of employment in the United States over the next 22 years.”

But with the rising costs of production and the steep drop in oil prices, industry analysts are questioning whether the plan still makes economic sense.

Because the proposed pipeline would cross the U.S.-Canadian border, the State Department must rule that the project is in the United States’ national interest and grant a permit. TransCanada applied to the State Department in 2008.

Faced with delays and objections to the original route, the Nebraska Legislature enacted a law in 2012 designed to expedite approval and routing of major pipelines. That law allowed the governor to approve projects instead of the state’s Public Service Committee.

In January 2013, Heineman approved a route that would run for 250 miles underground through the state and forwarded that approval to the Obama administration.

But ten months ago, Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie F. Stacy struck down the law, declaring that it was unconstitutional. Her decision came in a lawsuit filed by three property owners whose land was in the pipeline’s path.

The state attorney general appealed the decision, and on Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled.

Jane Kleeb, director of an anti-Keystone XL group called Bold Nebraska, said the decision was “a big deal for precedents for states’ rights and what states can legally do for pipeline routing. It’s a big deal for eminent domain, determining when an oil pipeline company can use eminent domain on landowners.”

Bold Nebraska wants the pipeline stopped at all costs, but a final determination could be months away.

“We think the best route for landowners is no route,” Kleeb said. “Everyone wants this pipeline to be rejected so they can have their lives back. If you’re a landowner, you’re waking up and going to sleep thinking about this.”

AFP Photo/Don Emmert



  1. joe schmo January 9, 2015

    Thumbs up to Heineman:)

    1. highpckts January 9, 2015

      Stupid remark but then you don’t care about the environment! You just have to believe there are many “jobs” attached to this and we will be OPEC free with this oil! Screw the facts! Dunce!

      1. Jambi January 9, 2015

        Does anyone “really” know what’s involved in the “processing” of these “Tar Sands” which are going to be forced through this pipleline? ….This is NOT oil being pumped down a pipeline as we know it….

    2. johninPCFL January 9, 2015

      Yeah. I’m sure the folks being forced from their land by TransCanada through eminent domain foreclosures agree with you.

      1. Allan Richardson January 10, 2015

        At least they are getting PAID to lose their land! The folks who get to KEEP the land, then find it worthless after the first big spill, are the ones who will be screwed, especially since the Corporate Court will stop them from being compensate by the company for damages.

  2. ps0rjl January 9, 2015

    I find it interesting that our new GOP majority in both the House and Sent cannot wait to approve the pipeline, even though British Columbia, Alberta’s neighboring province, refused to let it be built across it. I guess there aren’t as many whoremongerers in the BC legislator.

    1. Allan Richardson January 10, 2015

      I’ve been wondering the same thing for some time, but none of the news media has mentioned the question, much less the answer. if the oil were sent west to Vancouver, they would already be on the SAME OCEAN as China, and much closer to China than the Pacific end of the Panama Canal (also no canal tolls, crossing the Gulf of Mexico, or risk of Atlantic/Gulf hurricanes). So I had guessed that SOME Canadian jurisdiction had nixed the project. Can’t pollute CANADIAN soil, so send it through UNCLE SUCKER’s land!

  3. bobnstuff January 9, 2015

    Here is the question. How many jobs
    have been created by the part of the pipe line that is in use today?
    Phases 1,2,3 are done so there should be employment numbers from
    that. Also why haven’t they talked about the great success of the
    first leg also known as the Keystone Wood River-Patoka Pipeline. Just
    maybe because there were not the great numbers of jobs and maybe
    because the Wood River-Patoka Pipeline leaks. We are already sending
    590,000 barrels a day through the pipeline, were are the jobs from
    it? Why is Trans Canada not throwing a party at the news and are they
    going to be sending much oil that costs them $60 per barrel to
    produce to a market that is paying less then $50 and the price is
    still going down. Is anyone talking about these things?

    1. johninPCFL January 9, 2015

      Most of Phases 1 and 2 involved already existing pipe, so essentially no net jobs were created (the work was done by existing employees.)
      The construction from the border down involves building a section, then moving to the next area and repeating the process. The same people would be used for the construction, so no new jobs past the first area. There would be additional jobs created in the service industries in the new area, but there would also be those same “new” jobs lost from the old area, so on net no new jobs there either. TransCanada counted the pipeline jobs in each area all as “new jobs” even though they are moving the same manpower from place to place, and counted the service jobs all as “new jobs” even though they are lost from the older area.
      The net on the whole project is that a few thousand temporary jobs would be created, each lasting a few months as the pipeline was constructed through an area. The permanent jobs would be in pipeline operations, maybe a few dozen at most.

  4. TMZ1928 January 10, 2015

    None of this matters since Tom Steyer has already bought and paid for Obama’s veto of the Keystone pipeline.


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