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Nebraska judge nixes Keystone XL route approval

Keywords: Tags  Keystone XL pipeline, ruling, TransCanada Corp., judgement, pipeline route, reversed decision, Judge Stephanie F. Stacy, Dave Heineman David A. Damina

NEW YORK — A Nebraska judge has invalidated Gov. Dave Heineman’s decision to approve TransCanada Corp.’s revised Keystone XL route through the state, presenting further hurdles to the long-delayed project.

"The court finds plaintiffs are entitled to injunctive relief, and defendants should be permanently enjoined from enforcing the provisions of LB 1161, and permanently enjoined from acting pursuant to the governor’s Jan. 22, 2013, approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline route," district court judge Stephanie F. Stacy wrote in the decision.

"We are disappointed and disagree with the decision. We will now analyze the judgment and decide what next steps may be taken," a TransCanada spokesman told AMM in an e-mail.

Nebraska attorney general Jon Bruning has filed an appeal against the decision, according to Calgary, Alberta-based TransCanada’s fourth-quarter earnings statement.

The ruling will likely futher delay the pipeline, David A. Domina, lawyer for the plaintiff land owners in the case, told AMM.

"(T)he entire statute (LB 1161) was declared invalid and there is not a fallback statute, so the legislature will either have to pass a new law or the governor will have to win an appeal at the Nebraska Supreme Court," Domina said.

The appeal process will likely take a year, while the approval process through the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC), the approval process circumvented by LB 1161, would "probably also (take) pretty close to a year," according to Domina.

Approvals through the PSC are typically slated to take seven months, but the process can be extended to 12 months and beyond, according to its rules and regulations.

Domina said the challenge to LB 1161 was prompted partly due to concerns about TransCanada’s approach to getting consent for the line from Nebraska landowners, but also because of the pipeline firm’s steel-procurement strategy.

"One of the things that is troublesome to some of my farmer and rancher clients and some Nebraskans is that we have a steel mill in the state owned by Nucor Corp., but TransCanada proposes to use steel made overseas to build the pipeline, not U.S.(-produced) steel," Domina said.

TransCanada has been criticized before for the origin of steel used in Keystone XL.

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