Judge strikes Nebraska Keystone XL pipeline law

This victory for landowners against eminent domain by an out-of-state company for the Keystone XL oil pipeline is relevant to the Sabal Trail methane pipeline, which is just as big a boondoggle for remote companies at the expense of local landowners and taxpayers.

Alison Sider and Alicia Mundy wrote for WSJ yesterday, Nebraska Judge Blocks Governor’s Keystone XL Decision: Court Decision a Victory for Opponents of the Pipeline Project

A Nebraska judge ruled Wednesday the law allowing the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline to be built across the state is unconstitutional, a move that could further delay the project.

Lancaster County District Court Judge Stephanie Stacy sided with three landowners who argued Nebraska’s governor shouldn’t be able to sign off on the pipeline’s route. The governor, Republican Dave Heineman, was handed that power in a law the state Legislature hastily passed in 2012. But the court ruled that under the state’s constitution, only Nebraska’s Public Service Commission could approve such a pipeline route.

The judge ruled the Legislature overstepped its bounds and the governor’s approval “must be declared null and void,” because it was based on an unconstitutional law.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, who defended the law in court, said he would appeal the decision.

Georgia’s Public Service Commission hasn’t approved any route for Spectra’s Sabal Trail methane pipeline, and I don’t think Alabama’s has, either.

TransCanada said it was disappointed with the decision and offered no details on what its next steps would be.

The Nebraska landowners were represented by attorney Dave Domina, who said Wednesday’s ruling prevents the company from taking over contested property to build the pipeline. “TransCanada has no approved route in Nebraska. TransCanada is not authorized to condemn the property against Nebraska landowners,” he said. “The pipeline project is at a standstill.”

More details on the landowner opposition site Bold Nebraska, including the actual ruling.

The ruling includes a permanent injunction preventing Gov. Dave Heineman, and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality from taking any further action to authorize or advance the pipeline under the unconstitutional law.

And a link to coverage on MSNBC’s The Ed Show.

Meanwhile, eminent domain for Keystone XL has gone to the Texas Supreme Court. Maybe if more people sue about Sabal Trail’s attempted use of eminent domain that methane pipeline can be stopped, too.

There are more parallels. RT wrote yesterday, Judge: Nebraska governor exceeded authority in approving Keystone pipeline

Much of the resistance to the pipeline centers around increased greenhouse gas emissions connected with crude tar sands development. This requires a more energy-intensive process than the production of plain crude oil, since a substance known as bitumen must be extracted from the Alberta tar sands through means such as surface mining or injecting steam into the ground.

So-called “natural” gas is also produced by injecting things into the ground, liquids, of unknown but apparently toxic composition, in fracking. And methane is a much worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Opponents of Keystone XL have several concerns regarding the pipeline — including the carbon-intensive impact from tar sands extraction, which they believe will worsen the effects of climate change. They are also concerned that the pipeline will put nearby communities at risk of oil spills into water supplies.

Methane pipelines seem to just keep exploding, plus corrosion and leaks.

Critics have also pointed out that most of the oil that will travel through Keystone XL will go to growing economies overseas—like China—that have an increasing demand for more fossil fuels. The pipeline, detractors say, is unlikely to lower the price of gasoline in the US.

Methane pipeline proponents in Congress and elsewhere continue to push for exports, including by pushing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership corporate power grab, even though proponents like T. Boone Pickens say exports would drive up the price of domestic methane.

Proponents echo TransCanada and the Canadian government, saying the project will create tens of thousands of jobs for the communities near the pipeline in the US. The State Department has made a far more modest prediction, estimating that the pipeline will create an immediate 5,000 to 6,000 jobs. Others, however, have said that long-term job creation is nowhere near either estimate. President Obama said as much last March.

“The most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline, which might take a year or two, and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people,” he said.

Methane pipelines also create hardly any local jobs, since pipeline companies bring in their own crews. Maybe this is why Spectra’s Brian Fahrenthold was unable to come up with any figure for local pipeline jobs in Lowndes County when he gave that dog and pony show back in December. No specific number in his written response to local citizens’ questions, either.

And, as Bold Nebraska and Nebraska Sierra Club point out, Keystone XL would go through the fragile Oglalla Aquifer, just like the Sabal Trail pipeline would go through our fragile Floridan Aquifer.

Spectra’s Sabal Trail methane pipeline, like the Keystone XL oil pipeline, atempts to use eminent domain on local landowners who would have to live with long-term hazards for ongoing profit of remote companies, for a fossil fuel that isn’t needed when we can go straight to solar and wind power, and that would be likely to be used for exports that would run up the price of that fossil fuel. Pipeline? No!


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