Thursday, March 21, 2013

Obscure NE Keystone XL eminent domain lawsuit could stop or stall pipeline; state has already lost twice

Three Cornhusker landowners represents a serious threat to TransCanada's efforts to steamroll farmers and ranchers. Here's the press release, via Bold Nebraska:

The lawsuit against the State of Nebraska, filed by three landowners, is moving forward in the Lancaster County court with a full trial expected this summer. The outcome would affect the Keystone XL pipeline route and the power of eminent domain and any possible forced approval of the pipeline that Congress is currently considering.
      Yesterday, the state of Nebraska lost its motion to prevent landowners from adding requests for injunctive relief and lost its motion to block landowners from adding more claims of unconstitutional acts.
      Additionally, the State of Nebraska lost its motion last year to dismiss the lawsuit despite Rep. Lee Terry saying to press just this past week that the case would “be dismissed any day.”
      "Citizens continue to stand up and defend our land and water because politicians like Gov. Heineman sold us out for a foreign corporation who wants nothing more than to take our families hard work to subsidize an export pipeline," said Randy Thompson, plaintiff and landowner. "Eminent domain should never be used for private gain and Gov. Heineman had no right to grant TransCanada the power to take our land against our will for a project that does not even have a permit to build in our country."
      The state law passed in Nebraska establishing a new approval process of the current preferred route for Keystone XL pipeline is being challenged with this lawsuit. The case, filed last year, has passed various legal hurdles with the citizens winning at every stage. The lawsuit contends that the law passed--LB 1161--is unconstitutional by giving the power of eminent domain to the Governor and by giving the Nebraska DEQ authority to review a pipeline route when that power rests with the Nebraska Public Service Commission.
      "Congress would be wise to stay out of trying to force the President to approve the Keystone XL pipeline," said Susan Dunavan, plaintiff and landowner. "The route and process of eminent domain are far from settled in Nebraska. Landowners have rights and will ensure our land and water are protected and our state constitution followed."
      The lawsuit is timely given the national discourse around the pipeline. The most recent ruling in favor of the landowners makes it clear that if the citizens win after the full trial--which will happen this summer--then any route approved for Nebraska is thrown out including [the one included] with the US State Department process.
      David Domina and Brian Jorde of Domina Law Group continue to ensure landowners' rights are protected whether that is in the courtroom or with groups like NEAT helping landowners understand their legal rights and options while managing the constant changing tactics of TransCanada and their land agents.
      "The strength of landowners continues to drive our work," said Brian Jorde, trial lawyer with Domina Law Group. “Lobbyists and politicians must be held accountable when attempting to game the system for personal and private corporate gain. Our state’s constitution is for the people not as a tool to make an easier regulatory path for a privately owned foreign export pipeline. We will continue to defend the constitution and those who are the lifeblood of this great state, our family farmers and ranchers.”

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