FACTBOX-Nebraska court to settle legal issues tied to Keystone XL pipeline

by Reuters
Thursday, 4 September 2014 19:12 GMT

Sept 4 (Reuters) - The Nebraska Supreme Court is due on Friday to hear oral arguments in a dispute over the proposed route for the Keystone XL pipeline.

The project meant to deliver Canadian oil sands crude oil to Texas refineries would bisect Nebraska and some landowners along the route say Governor Dave Heineman went too far in his support.

State legislation passed in 2012 gave Heineman direct authority to bless the Keystone route, letting TransCanada Corp sidestep the state's independent Public Services Commission (PSC).

A state court in February sided with landowners and the governor appealed. Each side has filed supporting briefs and will have about 10 minutes to present their arguments before taking questions from the judges.

Below are some of the key disputed points in the case:


Nebraska gives the state PSC broad power to regulate companies that operate as "common carriers," such as utility, telephone, transport and energy services.

The state court termed the Keystone pipeline a common carrier, and said state lawmakers were wrong to strip a state agency of its right to regulate such an enterprise.

But the governor has argued that the Legislature limited pipeline common carriers to those that operate within Nebraska, not just pass through.

Because it is a key question in the dispute, the Supreme Court could settle whether Keystone XL meets the definition of a "common carrier."


It is impossible to know which Nebraska landowners might be harmed by the pipeline since the route has not been set, a state court said, but in the meantime any taxpayer has the right to challenge the state's Keystone legislation.

The governor has argued that Keystone foes must do more to challenge the law, and prove that they have a direct stake in the future route of the pipeline.

The Supreme Court may settle this question.


Nebraska's Keystone legislation does not envision a way for foes of the project to appeal a "yes" decision.

The governor has argued that when it comes to siting infrastructure like pipelines, there can be little room left for appeal. Opponents of Keystone, though, have said the measure violates their rights.

The lower court did not rule on the question of "right to appeal" but the Supreme Court might address those concerns.


Nebraska's legislation allocates $2 million to fund an official environmental review of the pipeline and envisions TransCanada returning the money later.

Keystone foes argue that such spending is an abuse of taxpayer rights and so the law is unconstitutional. (Reporting by Patrick Rucker, editing by Ros Krasny and David Gregorio)

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