District Court judge rules state pipeline law unconstitutional - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

UPDATE: District Court judge rules state pipeline law unconstitutional

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Posted By: Brittany Paris & Bill Schammert
bparis@klkntv.com & bschammert@klkntv.com 

A Nebraska law that gives the governor final approval on oil pipelines in the state has been declared unconstitutional by a Lancaster County District Court judge.

On Wednesday, Judge Stephanie Stacy made the ruling in favor of three Nebraska landowners who challenged the law.

Judge Stacy says the law, passed in 2011, is unconstitutional because Governor Dave Heineman shouldn't have had the authority to approve a route or give TransCanada authority to take private land.

Omaha Attorney David Domina represents the landowners.

"The pipeline project is stalled as far as crossing Nebraska is concerned," he said.

The ruling includes a permanent injunction preventing Gov. Heineman, and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality from taking any further action to authorize or advance the pipeline. All previous action is null and void.

Judge Stacy says the power lies in the hands of the Public Service Commission, which regulates pipelines and other utilities.

"What [the landowners] hope is, if TransCanada is going to try to do business in Nebraska, it needs to learn to act like Nebraskans act toward each other and not be a bully," Domina said.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning has already filed an appeal. 

Papillion Sen. Jim Smith originally introduced the law that was shot down in 2012. He says he's obviously disappointed by the ruling but respects the process.

"With four years in the legislature, I've learned to not be surprised by any decision," he said.

He, along with Bruning and Gov. Heineman have said they will continue to push for the pipeline.

"It's in their best interest, it's in our businesses best interest to have an abundant affordable supply of energy, and it creates jobs," Sen. Smith said.

TransCanada released the following statement:

We are disappointed and disagree with the decision. We will now analyze the judgment and decide what next steps may be taken. TransCanada continues to believe strongly in Keystone XL and the benefits it would provide to Americans – thousands of jobs and a secure supply of crude oil from a trusted neighbor in Canada. 

-Shawn Howard, TransCanada

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