By: E. Lynn Grayson
In Thomson v. Heineman, a Nebraska court has struck down 2012 legislation that paved the way for state regulatory approval of the Keystone XL pipeline proposed route in Nebraska. The Nebraska District Court granted plaintiffs' request for an injunction barring the state from enforcing LB 1161 – regulation which created an expedited means of approving the proposed pipeline routes and vesting authority in the Department of Environmental Quality and the governor the power to grant final approval.
The court ruled the power to evaluate and approve oil pipeline routes falls within the constitutionally enumerated powers of the state Public Service Commission. Accordingly, the legislation violates the separation of powers clause of the state constitution.
Nebraska's attorney general has said that the state will appeal the ruling.
This regulation had been the subject of much discussion and debate since its passage pitting local and national forces for and against the pipeline. The legislation allowing quicker approval of the proposed pipeline route aided the overall strategic plans for pushing ahead with this controversial project. While this new court ruling is another delay for the Keystone pipeline, it is possible legislators may attempt to pass a new version of the law. For the pipeline project in general, the court's ruling is simply another challenge that will need to be overcome or managed moving forward.
The court's ruling in Thomson v. Heineman, Neb. Dist. Ct., No. CI-12-2060, (2/19/14) can be viewed here.