TransCanada Corp. will soon ask the Nebraska Public Service Commission for permission to route the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state.
The move signals a dramatic shift in TransCanada’s tactics for building the project. The company originally avoided the PSC and lobbied state lawmakers to give the governor power over the route.
"We believe that going through the PSC process is the clearest path to achieving route certainty for the Keystone XL Project in Nebraska," the company said in a statement.
"It ultimately saves time, reduces conflict with those who oppose the project and sets clear rules for approval of the route," a TransCanada spokesman said.
Earlier this year, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld a 2012 state law giving the governor power over the pipeline’s route, but it did so on a technicality (Greenwire, Jan. 9).
Anti-KXL landowners, with more information about the pipeline’s route, quickly filed new litigation against the law with the backing of other pipeline opponents. They call the law unconstitutional.
Now TransCanada is backing away from eminent domain proceedings against resisting landowners under the current 2013 route approval and seeking to halt the litigation.
"This is a major victory for Nebraska landowners who refused to back down in the face of bullying by a foreign oil company," said Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, one of the main groups opposing KXL.
Opponents also have been fighting TransCanada’s permit renewal for KXL to cross South Dakota. They say the Nebraska PSC decisionmaking, which has yet to start, will take at least a year.
Landowner Art Tanderup added, "We believe that the PSC will not allow Keystone XL to be placed in the Sand Hills or over the Ogallala Aquifer but are confident President Obama will reject the pipeline before the PSC even has a chance to conduct a review."
TransCanada said yesterday that the planned route received the state Department of Environmental Quality’s blessing and is different from the company’s original proposal because of environmental concerns. The company also said it has the blessing from a vast majority of landowners.
Ultimately, the Obama administration will have to decide whether KXL can cross from Alberta’s oil sands fields into the United States, before moving on to the Gulf Coast. In recent days, the White House said it couldn’t provide a timeline for completion of its review.