Keystone XL developer drops landowner lawsuits in Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. – The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline is shifting course in Nebraska and will withdraw lawsuits seeking to gain access to the property of landowners who oppose the project, the company announced Tuesday.

TransCanada Inc. said it will abandon its current efforts to invoke eminent domain through the courts, and will reapply for state approval despite having received the go-ahead from former Republican Gov. Dave Heineman in 2013. Heineman approved the project under a now-contested pipeline-siting law that granted him the final say over the project’s route through Nebraska. TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper said the company will instead seek a review from the Nebraska Public Service Commission – a small, elected group that regulates most pipeline projects – as many opponents have wanted.

Cooper said the company intends to seek approval for the same route that was approved by the governor, but reapplying through state Public Service Commission provides “the clearest path to achieving route certainty,” given the lawsuits that sought to overturn Nebraska’s 3-year-old pipeline-siting law.

“It ultimately saves time, reduces conflict with those who oppose the project and sets clear rules for approval of the route,” Cooper said. Opponents argued in court that the law was invalid because it allowed TransCanada to circumvent the commission and receive approval from Heineman, who supported the pipeline. Under Nebraska’s constitution, the commission has the authority to regulate “common carriers” such as pipelines and railroads.