Nebraska Court Decision to Delay Keystone XL


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By James Burgess for

A Nebraska court found that the state law used to approve the Keystone XL project in Nebraska is unconstitutional. The state passed a law that allowed TransCanada to submit an application to either the Public Service Commission or to the Governor for approval. TransCanada chose to submit an application to Governor Dave Heineman, who approved the project. Judge Stephanie Stacy declared the law that took power away from the Public Service Commission unconstitutional, voiding the state’s approval of the pipeline.

The decision throws the Keystone XL project into disarray. The judge prohibited the Governor “from taking any action on the governor’s January 22, 2013 approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline route,” meaning the project, for now, cannot move forward.

The surprise decision is a victory for landowners in Nebraska who took the case to court. It also provides political cover for the Obama administration to slow walk any decision on the pipeline, perhaps until after the mid-term elections. The President seemed to be in a no-win situation with the decision – approving or rejecting it would anger key voting blocks. Presumably he can now point to the court decision as a reason for not taking action for another year or so.

The court decision came the same day that President Obama met with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts in Toluca, Mexico. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pressed Obama on the issue, calling it a “no brainer.” Obama was unbending in his stance that the pipeline must go through the proper process. “Keystone will proceed along the path that’s already been set forth. I know it’s been extensive and at times, I’m sure, Stephen feels, a little too laborious,” he said, according to Bloomberg.

To receive approval, the Keystone XL pipeline would now need approval from the Nebraska Public Service Commission, which theoretically will undertake a more extensive review than the Governor.

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