Judge Declares Pipeline Law Unconstitutional - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

Update: Judge Declares Pipeline Law Unconstitutional

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A Lancaster County District Court judge has struck down a law passed by the Legislature in 2012 that gave the governor's office the authority to approve or deny pipeline routes in Nebraska.

Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled LB 1161 unconstitutional on Wednesday, declaring it void.

Three Nebraska landowners challenged the law that gave Gov. Dave Heineman the authority to allow the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline to proceed with construction across Nebraska.

The court found regulatory control over pipeline companies like TransCanada falls to the Nebraska Public Service Commission, not the governor, according to the State Constitution.

Opponents of the pipeline, and groups like the Nebraska Farmers Union, call it a victory and say TransCanada must start over in Nebraska because they no longer have a legal route approved. The court's ruling basically voids the notification that Heineman sent to Pres. Barack Obama last year stating that state has approved of the pipeline route.

"We have a lot of grassroots support, now we have legal support," says Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska. "We've been saying from day one that LB 1161 was unconstitutional, that TransCanada's million dollars of lobbying on our state senate should have never allowed this bill to pass, and that TransCanada should not have been threatening eminent domain."

"It isn't going to go away for us, it's not something that we're getting tired of," says Jenni Harrington, a landowner fighting Keystone XL. "It's protecting the future, it's protecting the future generation, so it's a great first round, and we're ready to go to the second round."

The second round will likely be coming soon for all. Attorney General Jon Bruning filed a notice of appeal with the court on Wednesday.

Heineman issued his own statement saying he's pleased with the decision to appeal calling it "an important issue for the state of Nebraska."

Nebraskans supporting the pipeline are taking to the radio waves to make their case. The radio ads by the non-profit "Nebraskans for Jobs and Energy Independence" began on Wednesday and will run through March 7.

"Nebraskans overwhelmingly support the Keystone XL project, but it's important to show that support by sending comments to the Obama administration about the value of the project to our local communities, state and nation," said Chris Peterson, spokesman for Nebraskans for Jobs and Energy Independence. "Now is the time to take action and speak out in support of thousands of Nebraska construction jobs and American energy security."

Dave Domina, the lawyer for the landowners in this case and candidate for U.S. Senate, said, "Under the Court's ruling, TransCanada has no approved route in Nebraska. TransCanada is not authorized to condemn the property against Nebraska landowners."

The ruling includes a permanent injunction preventing Heineman and the DEQ from taking any further action to authorize or advance the pipeline under the law.

Domina says this case was not a commentary on this specific pipeline project, but instead questioned the role of the governor's office to make the decision to move ahead with the project.

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