Nebraska Supreme Court Rules Against Landowners, House Immediately Passes Keystone

Within hours of the Nebraska state Supreme Court decision on the Keystone pipeline route, the House voted to force its approval, 266-153.

28 Democrats voted in favor along with all Republicans, but the vote falls short of being able to override a Presidential veto. This is the 10th Keystone vote in the House over the past four years and the third in six months. The Senate has 60 votes lined up in favor of it, also too few to override the President’s promised veto. They will take it up next week.

"We take risk to our lands, the American people face threats to their health, and TransCanada gets to reap the rewards. That’s not a winning formula for our country or the economy," comments Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). 

"Regardless of the Nebraska ruling today, the House bill still conflicts with longstanding executive branch procedures … and if presented to the president, he will veto the bill," retorts Eric Schultz, speaking for the White House.

Nebraska Supreme Court Decision

Four of seven judges in Nebraska’s Supreme Court voted in favor of landowners who oppose the pipeline crossing their property, but a supermajority of five votes are needed when constitutional issues are raised.

The ruling gives Nebraska’s governor the authority to approve Keystone’s route through the state, regardless of landowner objections to violating their property rights. It overturns a lower court decision that ruled in favor of landowners.

The final decision wasn’t made on the merits of the case, rather whether a 2012 law (LB 1161) is constitutional – one that gives the Governor the right to use eminent domain and approve the pipeline route in the state. The three dissenting judges argued property owners don’t have the right to sue.

There may be another legal challenge to Keystone in Nebraska after TransCanada reveals the exact path and begins condemnation proceedings, which could happen as soon as this month.

Here’s the background of the case: Nebraska Landowners Win Court Ruling Against Keystone Pipeline.

Tar Sands Pipeline Nebraska Lawsuit

By upholding the Governor’s right to comply with TransCanada’s pipeline route against the wishes of landowners, the route that crosses the fragile Sand Hills and Ogallala aquifer remains in place – threatening agriculture and drinking water in America’s heartland.

"Landowners had been counting on the courts to protect them from TransCanada’s bullying attempts to run tar sands through their homes. As happens all too often with Big Oil, our government institutions failed, allowing a risky route through sensitive land and water," says Duncan Meisel of 350.org.

Randy Thompson, the lead landowner plaintiff in the case, says: "This remains clear: the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would threaten the land and water in America’s heartland and the health and livelihoods of the people who live there. It would be a disaster for the climate by opening up expanded development of Canada’s dirty tar sands, and it would bring no significant economic benefit to the United States. It needs to be rejected. And it’s time for President Obama to deny this misguided project." 

"Even if the law has been found to be technically legal, it still does not make it right, and the passage of this legislation represents a gross injustice to many hardworking Nebraska families," he says.

Susan Dunavan, another landowner plaintiff says: "I am deeply disappointed the Judges ruled against Judge Stacy’s decision regarding the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of LB 1161. I am alarmed that our elected officials are allowed to pass legislation that directly violates the Nebraska State Constitution. A dangerous precedent has been set by this ruling. This ruling is in violation of our landowner rights, denies our right to due process and allows our lawmakers to continue to ignore the Constitution of the State of Nebraska."

"TransCanada is left with a risky route to defend. The decision is now in President Obama’s hands. This is a bad day for property rights in Nebraska. Private, foreign corporations now know they can buy their way through our state," says Bold Nebraska.

The ruling clears the way for the State Department to finish its  analysis and for other federal agencies, like the EPA, to give their assessment of the project. 

President Obama can end this fiasco right now by permanently rejecting the pipeline.

Read a good summary of what’s changed since the State Department’s previous biased, faulty analyses, and The Truth Behind the Job Numbers: Keystone XL Will Hurt More Than Help Job Creation:

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