Judge throws out lawsuit challenging Nebraska pipeline law

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A judge has thrown out a lawsuit challenging a Nebraska law that allowed the Nebraska governor to approve the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline route through the state.

Holt County District Judge Mark Kozisek tossed the lawsuit on Friday, agreeing with the pipeline company’s argument that the issue was rendered moot by TransCanada’s decision to abandon plans to move forward on the project, the Omaha World-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1OFueD0 ).

That means the law will remain on Nebraska’s books, for now.

The landowners who filed the suit had urged the judge to allow them to proceed with the lawsuit, arguing that companies could use the 2012 law in the future to avoid the Nebraska Public Service Commission - a small, elected group that regulates most pipeline projects - opting instead for a governor’s review and blessing.

TransCanada announced earlier this year that it was withdrawing its eminent domain claims against landowners and reapplying to the regulatory Nebraska Public Service Commission. The announcement came just weeks before President Barack Obama killed the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, declaring it would undercut U.S. efforts to clinch a global climate change deal at the center of his environmental legacy.

Former Gov. Dave Heineman approved a Nebraska route for the Keystone XL in 2013 under the pipeline-siting law.

The pipeline had been proposed to travel from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.

TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper welcomed Friday’s ruling and said the company continues to back the project.

Brian Jorde, an attorney representing the landowners in the lawsuit, characterized Friday’s ruling as a minor defeat.

“We won the war - there’s no pipeline,” Jorde said. “Basically, an unconstitutional law will stay on the books, and if someone tries to use it again, TransCanada or otherwise, we’ll be ready with our challenge.”

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