Climate

Judge Halts TransCanada’s Use Of Eminent Domain On Nebraskans For Keystone Pipeline

CREDIT: AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Those opposing the Keystone XL pipeline hold up banners during the U.S. State Department's sole public hearing in Grand Island, Neb., Thursday, April 18, 2013, to allow citizens to make their views known.

A Nebraska district judge has halted TransCanada’s attempts to use eminent domain to force landowners to turn over their land for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, an act that anti-Keystone activists are calling a major win.

Nebraska State District Court Judge Mark Kozisek issued a temporary injunction against TransCanada on Thursday after a hearing during which nearly 70 landowners called on the judge to grant the injunction. The injunction will remain in place until Nebraska’s Supreme Court takes up the landowners’ case against state law LB1161, which gave TransCanada the right to use eminent domain against the landowners.

“TransCanada sees the writing on the wall,” Jane Kleeb, Director of Bold Nebraska, a group that’s supporting the holdout landowners, said in a statement. “Nebraska landowners are not going to cave to their threats and we will now see them in our Supreme Court to finally get clarity on the legality of a foreign corporation using eminent domain for private gain.”

Last month, the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s decision that LB1161 was unconstitutional, greenlighting TransCanada’s route through the state. In addition to granting eminent domain, LB1161 made it possible for pipeline plans to get final approval from the state’s governor, instead of going through a more rigorous approval process through the state’s Public Service Commission. Three landowners thought that law was unconstitutional, but not enough judges on Nebraska’s Supreme Court agreed.

Soon after the Supreme Court issued its ruling, TransCanada filed eminent domain claims for the landowners who still hadn’t agreed to turn their land over to the company — a group TransCanada estimates at about 90 people. After that, some of the landowners filed their own lawsuits against TransCanada, challenging its right to eminent domain. The group represents the last landowners along Keystone XL’s route that have yet to turn over their land to the pipeline.

The state’s district court decision comes the same week that the House passed a bill that aims to force the president’s approval of Keystone XL, which would ship tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada down to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. The bill will head to the president’s desk after the upcoming two-week recess break.

The president is expected to veto the bill — in January, the White House said that the president “wouldn’t sign” any Congressional legislation on Keystone XL that ended up on his desk. Despite that threat, GOP leaders in Congress are planning to hold a “signing ceremony” for the bill Friday — an event that’s typically saved for presidents signing bills into law.