OMAHA, Neb. May 23 Three Nebraska landowners on
Wednesday challenged a state law aimed at speeding up approval
of a new route for TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL oil
pipeline from Canada to Texas around environmentally sensitive
areas of the state.
The Nebraska law approved in April aims to speed the
pipeline process by giving the decision on the route to the
state environmental quality department, with final approval by
Governor Dave Heineman.
The law "largely eviscerated" actions the legislature took
in a special session last year, violating the state constitution
by stripping the authority over pipeline decisions from a state
public service commission, the lawsuit said.
Under the April law, the commission would only review a
pipeline proposal if the governor rejects the environmental
quality department decision.
Landowners Randy Thompson, Susan Luebbe and Susan Dunavan
filed the lawsuit in a Nebraska district court and asked the
Nebraska Supreme Court to take the case directly. It named
Heineman, the state treasurer and environmental quality
department director as defendants, but not TransCanada.
TransCanada declined to comment on the lawsuit between the
private landowners and Nebraska, but is committed to the
Keystone XL project, spokesperson Grady Semmens said.
"We continue to work collaboratively with the Nebraska
Department of Environmental Quality on defining a new route for
Keystone XL that avoids the Sandhills," Semmens said in a
The lawsuit asks the courts to overturn the law and enter a
permanent injunction, but does not ask for the law to be
enjoined temporarily while the case is considered.
David Domina, an attorney representing the landowners, said
it could take 10 months for a decision if the state Supreme
Court takes the case directly, or a year longer than that if the
case is heard first in Lancaster County district court.
Thompson said he had been in discussion with TransCanada
about the pipeline proposals since late 2007.
"The main source of my frustration has come from the actions
of our elected officials, not only in Nebraska, but in the
nation," Thompson said Wednesday in a telephone briefing.
Earlier proposals would have routed the pipeline through the
sensitive Sandhills region of Nebraska and drew concerns about
the safety of the Ogallala aquifer, a major source of fresh
water for drinking and farmland.
President Barack Obama rejected a proposed route earlier
this year, drawing criticism from Republicans and effectively
delaying a decision until after the November election.
TransCanada has been negotiating a new route with Nebraska
and has submitted a new application for the northern part of the
pipeline to the U.S. State Department, which reviews the
application because it crosses an international border.