Keystone XL Could Face New Lawsuit from Nebraska Ranchers


The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline faces a potential new legal challenge and the prospect of further delays from ranchers along its proposed route in Nebraska who say they “aren’t finished fighting” yet.

The threat of a new lawsuit, delivered in a video ultimatum from the ranchers’ lawyers, is almost certain to extend the saga of the Keystone XL in Nebraska – and in Washington, where open debate was scheduled to begin in the Senate on Monday afternoon ahead of an expected veto threat from Barack Obama.

Days after a ruling from the Nebraska state supreme court seemingly cleared one legal obstacle, lawyers for Keystone XL opponents said the pipeline company could expect to return to court.

“The landowners here aren’t finished fighting, and neither are we,” Dave Domina, a lawyer representing Keystone XL opponents, said in a video released on Monday.

The challenge could mean further delays for TransCanada, the Canadian company that has fought for six years to build the pipeline to transport tar sands from Alberta to refineries on the Texas Gulf coast.

TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said in an email: “Lawyers for opponents of Keystone XL continue to issue threats, despite the fact that our pipeline route through the state of Nebraska continues to be valid and the process we have followed is the right one.

“They may not like the decision of the court, but the fact is they failed in their attempt to have the law overturned,” Howard went on. “As a result of the Nebraska supreme court’s decision, we continue to have a valid and approved route through the state.”

Monday’s legal pushback arrived despite a new push in Congress to wrest the decision out of the president’s hands, bypass a potential veto on the current legislation and force construction.

Congress does not currently have the votes to override a veto, which the White House has said Obama would offer pending the outcome of State Department reviews and legal challenges in Nebraska. 

TransCanada had appeared to have scored a breakthrough with the latter hurdle on Friday, when the Nebraska court opted not to overturn the Keystone XL’s proposed route, but it was a split decision: four of the judges found the route unlawful. Three refused to weigh in on the question, and the proposed route stood on a technicality.

Brian Jorde, another lawyer for the three ranchers, said the Nebraska court decision left a “cloud of uncertainty” over Keystone’s future.

“This decision has simply been pushed down the road to be answered on another day in the future,” he said.

That day could arrive on 22 January, the deadline for TransCanada to exercise its use of eminent domain against Nebraska ranchers who have refused to allow the pipeline to cross their land.

TransCanada has yet to secure approvals along about 40 miles of the pipeline’s 275-mile route across Nebraska. Claiming eminent domain would advance that process.

But if the pipeline company uses eminent domain to claim land for the pipeline route, that would give Keystone opponents an opening to go back to court, said Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, which opposes the pipeline.

In their video, Domina and Jorde offered up a glimpse of potential lines of attack, saying that if TransCanada exercises its legal claims on the land, they may respond with another law suit.

“If TransCanada chooses the route that we think is unconstitutional, the property owners of this state, and we as their lawyers, are prepared to meet TransCanada,” Domina said.

This story was originally published on the Guardian.

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