Landowners secured a victory last week when the Nebraska Public Service
Commission (PSC) denied TransCanada’s preferred pipeline route,
but the fight to completely shut down its construction continues.
The 3-2 decision to approve the alternative route is being touted as a
win for the energy company as well, but could open the door for a number
of new legal options for landowners to challenge its construction.
“There’s a legal argument that TransCanada may have to re-apply
(for the public service commission for approvals),” Domina Law Group
attorney Brian Jorde said.
Jorde said that the PSC is required to either approve or deny a proposed
route, not consider an alternate option. This ruling created a legal question
that lawyers are still working to understand, and will likely lead to
a continuation of the already nearly decade-long legal battle.
"The landowners haven't lost until the pipeline is under construction,
and we're years from that happening, if ever,” said Jorde. "The
landowners that would be on [the alternative] route are learning of it
for the first time today, and they did not have a voice at the Public
Service Commission hearings where they could make their issues and concerns
Jorde states that these landowners have clear grounds for appeal of this
route, as noted by Nebraska Commissioner Crystal Rhoades in her dissenting opinion.
TransCanada itself acknowledged the environmental dangers of this new route
during the hearings.
"This additional length would cause greater environmental impact and
render the route inferior to the preferred route."
TransCanada now needs to seek easements from a new set of landowners living
along the new route while simultaneously
cleaning up the more than 200,000 gallon spill from their existing pipeline in South Dakota.
Both the landowners and TransCanada can appeal the PSC’s decision
up to 30 days after it was issued, so this ruling may face additional
scrutiny. No matter what happens, the landowners fighting this pipeline
remain committed to fighting back against this multi-billion dollar company
and protect their land.