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TransCanada to Stop Condemnation Efforts in Hopes of Ending Legal Battle

Brian Jorde

In major news for Nebraska landowners, TransCanada announced it would be suspending its efforts to force Nebraskans to sign easements to give over their property for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada hopes that, by doing so, the legal challenges posed by landowners will stop.

What TransCanada will be continuing to do though is recommencing the process of securing eminent domain power, which is what the company will need to force Nebraskans to give over their land.

TransCanada will seek eminent domain power by filing an application with the Nebraska Public Service Commission, a five-member committee. The NPSC review process will likely take about seven to 12 months.

Why the Nebraska Public Service Commission?

The NPSC is the committee that oversees common carriers such as railroads and taxis. The “common carrier” designation caused quite a stir when it came to applying that to TransCanada. Dave Domina, the lawyer for Nebraska’s landowners opposing the pipeline, contended that the law that allowed Governor Dave Heineman to approve the pipeline’s route (LB 1161) improperly bypassed the NPSC, because the NPSC is the organization responsible for making decisions about common carriers, including pipelines.

Some Quick Facts About Keystone XL

  • TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline would stretch 1,179 miles
  • The pipeline would transport, at maximum, 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day
  • The pipeline is 36 inches in diameter
  • The pipeline begins in Hardisty (Alberta, Canada) and the proposed route would travel through the U.S. to oil refineries in the Gulf. The pipeline would come from the north and connect with existing pipelines near the Nebraska-Kansas border.
  • The only holdouts along the pipeline’s routes where TransCanada failed to obtain easements are in Nebraska – about 70 landowners.
  • Since 2008, TransCanada has spent $2.4 billion in attempts to build KXL. The estimated cost of project itself is $8 billion.

Building Pipelines Across International Borders

In order to construct a pipeline, or any structure for that matter, across international borders, the constructor needs presidential approval. The presidential review process for KXL, which was originally requested by TransCanada in 2008, ended in February. Landowners and TransCanada officials have been waiting for an answer ever since.

So why suspend condemnation efforts? Some think it’s because TransCanada has finally realized they can’t win in court.

“It seems like they are finally, after many years and many millions, figuring out what we were telling them all along,” commented Brian Jorde, one of the attorneys representing the landowners.

But TransCanada holds that the suspension is purely pragmatic, as this is the fastest way to get approval for constructing KXL. You can read more about this story in the Lincoln Journal Star.

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