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Landowners Across Nebraska Continue Their Fight to Secure Reimbursement

The Obama administration shut down the development of the Keystone XL pipeline more than a year ago, but Nebraskan landowners aren’t done fighting with the multi-billion dollar company behind its construction.

TransCanada, the Calgary, Alberta, Canada-based oil and energy company that sought to build the 1,170 mile pipeline looks to avoid paying the court costs incurred by the landowners who opposed them over the eight year legal battle. During those eight years, about 100 Nebraskan landowners pushed back against the foreign company’s attempts to use eminent domain laws to gain access to their private land.

“If, for example, as a farmer and I go out there and decide I'm going to deep chisel plow my field and I hit that pipe and knick it and create a leak, then I'm responsible for that even though they put the pipe in and they're not allowing me to do my business, which is to farm my ground best way possible,” commended Art Tanderup, one of the landowners who stood against TransCanada.

A judge ordered the company to repay the legal fees of these landowners – about $500,000 worth of legal fees – earlier this year. Now, TransCanada is appealing those rulings in county and district courts across the state. A judge in Wahoo, NB listened to arguments from attorneys on both sides earlier in December, including Domina Law Group attorney Brian Jorde who represented the landowners throughout their case.

“Well here this company wants to take land for a specific purpose which is for profit, only for them to transport a product that is not offloaded in Nebraska, and just cuts through our state,” said Brian. “And they should have to pay the land owners for what they put them through in order to do that.”

TransCanada’s attorneys argued that the reimbursement the landowners are seeking is based on generalities, and that the $500,000 or so figure doesn’t accurately represent the court costs they incurred, a statement Brian disputes.

The future of the Keystone XL Pipeline remains uncertain, especially since President-elect Trump vowed to bring it back during his campaign. Whether or not he chooses to follow through on that promise, the Nebraskan landowners remain committed to their fight to protect their land and the Ogallala Aquifer that lies beneath it. The aquifer supplies water to over 2 million people throughout the Great Plains region, and an oil spill could cause catastrophic damage to the local ecosystems and seriously harm everyone who relies on that source of water.

No matter what the court decides, TransCanada will need to wait until September of 2017 before they can resume their eminent domain efforts – Nebraska law requires a two year wait after abandoning these efforts, which the company did back in September of 2015. In the meantime, the company is focusing their efforts on fighting 59 different court cases spread across 9 counties in an attempt to avoid paying any of the landowner’s legal fees.

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