Another possible roadblock in Keystone XL Pipeline project

Posted By: Bayley Bischof Channel 8 Eyewitness News 

The Nebraska Public Service Commission had their first hearing over the Keystone XL Pipeline since approving an alternative route last month.

The biggest question to come out of the hearing was whether or not they had the authority make that decision in the first place, as the route they approved wasn’t the route the application asked for.

TransCanada says yes, the commission did have the authority to do so, and as long as the company files an amended application, construction of the mainline alternative route can move forward.

He’s basing this decision off of a statue regarding pipeline construction that says if an application for a pipeline was denied, the company can amend the application and resubmit it to the commission.

"We should submit an amended application and if the commission approves it, any concerns specific to the mainline alternative route would be addressed,” James Powers, with TransCanada said.

But lawyers for landowners, the Ponca Tribe, the Nebraska Sierra Club and the Yankton Sioux are using that same statute to say TransCanada is out of options.

"The game is over,” Dave Domina, Lawyer for landowers affected by the pipeline said.

They agree that the pipeline company can amend its application if it was denied.

But they say there was no denial, as a route was approved.

"There were two votes to deny all routes and three votes to approve a route that wasn’t the focus of the application,” Domina said.

Opponents also say TransCanada cannot move forward with the project because their original application didn’t inform landowners on the new route, or provide enough research on the alternative route.

"Did it tell people in the counties, yeah we’re gonna put a pipeline through your home– it’s a problem that can’t be fixed with an amended application,” Brad Jolly, a lawyer for the Ponca Tribe said.

The opposition also brought up further concerns about the social, cultural and environmental impact of the pipeline on the mainline alternative route.

TransCanada’s says if it can amend it’s application, the commission will have the chance to identify and deal with these issues.

“It is the best time to address the issues is now instead of later down the road in a new application,” James Powers said.

Now we wait for the Public Service Commission to decide whether or not TransCanada can amend their application and move forward with the Keystone XL Pipeline, or the project ends.