The courtroom was packed – standing room only. The occasion? An hour-long
oral argument over
LB 1161, the law that allowed Governor Dave Heineman to bypass the Public Service
Commission and approve the route of
TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.
TransCanada recently decided to apply for a route permit with the Nebraska Public Service Commission, they contend that the lawsuit
challenging the constitutionality of the 2012 law is a moot point. Nebraskans
beg to differ.
Attorney Dave Domina who is representing the landowners believes that TransCanada’s
attempt to dismiss the suit could be a ploy to keep their options open,
in case the Public Service Commission denies their application. Theoretically,
if Judge Mark Kozisek dismisses the landowners’ lawsuit, TransCanada
could potentially file another application with the new governor, Pete
Ricketts, who vehemently supports the project.
“There is no mootness here,” said Domina. “This issue
could not be more alive and well.”
Kozisek heard the oral arguments on Monday, but has not yet issued a ruling.
The case will go to trial sometime in December, unless Kozisek decides
to side with TransCanada before then, which would mean dismissing the lawsuit.
TransCanada still has another large hoop to jump through, even if the lawsuit
is dismissed. That is, the pipeline still needs presidential approval
since it crosses an international boundary. TransCanada filed the permit
application for the project more than seven years ago, and the White House
has given no indication as to when the public can expect a decision.
Monday’s Holt County Court hearing wasn’t Nebraska landowners’
first attempt to challenge the constitutionality of the 2012 law that
allowed Governor Dave Heineman to approve Keystone XL’s route. The
landowners, represented by attorneys at Domina Law Group, previously filed
a suit that made it to the Nebraska Supreme Court,
but then stalled.
Nebraska’s Constitution requires five votes in order to strike down
a state law as unconstitutional. Four of the justices agreed, but three
refused to vote, making a change to the constitution impossible. Landowners
filing two new lawsuits in an attempt to stop TransCanada KXL.
Although TransCanada has seemingly switched strategies, canceling the eminent
domain claims it had filed against Nebraska landowners, Attorney Dave
Domina still maintains that the issue isn’t moot. There is a broader
public interest at stake here, and that is, should the governor ever have
authority to decide and approve pipeline routes? We think not.
For additional coverage on Monday’s oral argument, visit: