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Judge Sides With Landowners, Rules LB 1161 Unconstitutional

Lancaster County District Court Judge Stephanie Stacy today sided with three Nebraska landowners and ruled that LB 1161 — the law passed by the Nebraska legislature in 2012 that granted the power of eminent domain to Gov. Dave Heineman, and in turn TransCanada for its Keystone XL pipeline — is declared unconstitutional and void. The ruling includes a permanent injunction preventing Gov. Dave Heineman, and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality from taking any further action to authorize or advance the pipeline under the unconstitutional law.  

Quote from Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska:
“Citizens won today. We beat a corrupt bill that Gov. Heineman and the Nebraska Legislature passed in order to pave the way for a foreign corporation to run roughshod over American landowners. We look forward to the Public Service Commission giving due process to a route that TransCanada will have to now submit to this proper regulatory body in Nebraska. TransCanada learned a hard lesson today: never underestimate the power of family farmers and ranchers protecting their land and water.”

Quote from Plaintiff and Nebraska landowner Susan Dunavan:
“The success in challenging the constitutionality of LB1161 shows that our elected officials must be held accountable for their actions.  Laws must be passed to protect the land, water and landowners rights regarding eminent domain and the right to due process.  I commend Judge Stacy for her diligence in examining the serious issues of this case and applaud her for upholding citizens rights given by them by the Nebraska State Constitution.”

Quote from Plaintiff and Nebraska rancher and landowner Suz Straka:
“I thank Judge Stacey and Dave Domina, our legal team for defending and knowing our constitutional rights. It saddens me that Gov Heinemen, Jon Bruning and Senator Jim Smith have half a brain to think we would stand by and let them take the law into their own hands. This is an immense victory against eminent domain for every rancher, farmer, and citizen this bill would have negatively affected.”

Quote from Plaintiff and Nebraska rancher and landowner Randy Thompson:
“First of all I would like to express my gratitude to all of the people who have helped make this action possible, and Iwant to give a special thanks to our legal team of David Domina and Brian Jorde for doing an outstanding job of representing us in this case. [TransCanada] came out here like a bunch of bullies and tried to force it down our throats. They told us there was nothing we could do to stop it.”

*FULL BACKGROUND ON THOMPSON V. HEINEMAN*

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Susan Luebbe (left), Susan Dunavan, and Randy Thompson (center), plaintiffs in the Thompson v. Heineman lawsuit, stand together with their attorneys, Brian Jorde (left) and David Domina, on the steps of the Lancaster County Courthouse. Sept. 27, 2013. Photo by Mary Anne Andrei / Bold Nebraska.

Susan Luebbe (left), Susan Dunavan, and Randy Thompson (center), plaintiffs in the Thompson v. Heineman lawsuit, stand together with their attorneys, Brian Jorde (left) and David Domina, on the steps of the Lancaster County Courthouse. Sept. 27, 2013. Photo by Mary Anne Andrei / Bold Nebraska.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 19, 2014

Contact:
David A. Domina
402-493-4100
Domina Law Group pc llo

District Court Declares Nebraska Pipeline Law Unconstitutional 
Governor’s Approval Of Pipeline Declared Invalid; 
TransCanada KXL Pipeline Hits Wall In Nebraska Court 

OMAHA, Neb. – February 19, 2014 – The Nebraska Legislature’s 2012 L.B.1161 allowing TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline Co. to proceed with construction across Nebraska was declared unconstitutional and void. The ruling came from Lancaster County District Court Judge Stephanie Stacy, today. The Court ruled for three Nebraska landowners who challenge the law. The ruling includes a permanent injunction preventing Gov. Dave Heineman, and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality from taking any further action to authorize or advance the pipeline under the unconstitutional law.

Judge Stacy concluded that LB 1161 unconstitutionally confers upon the Governor of Nebraska authority to approve a crude oil pipeline route, and to authorize the crude oil pipeline company to exercise the power of eminent domain against Nebraska landowners. Siding with three landowner plaintiffs, the District Court concluded that under Nebraska’s State Constitution, exclusive regulatory control over pipeline companies like TransCanada Keystone XL must be exercised by the Nebraska Public Service Commission, and cannot be given to the Governor.

The Court declared LB 1161, unconstitutional and void. Judge Stacy also concluded that action by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman purporting to approve TransCanada’s route and to empower the pipeline company to take land from Nebraska property owners is null and void. The court’s action effectively rescinds Gov. Heineman’s notification to Pres. Barack Obama that Nebraska legal procedures had been satisfied. Now, it is back to the drawing board for Gov. Heineman and the Legislature.

Dave Domina, the lawyer who handled the case for the landowners summarized the Ruling: “Under the Court’s ruling, TransCanada has no approved route in Nebraska. TransCanada is not authorized to condemn the property against Nebraska landowners. The pipeline project is at standstill in this State.” The Court’s extensive, 50-page opinion is accompanied by 248 footnotes. The opinion dissects LB1161 on state constitutional grounds. The decision turns largely on the pipeline’s status as a “common carrier”. Common carriers are regulated by the Public Service Commission under the Nebraska Constitution.

Dave Domina noted that “this case is not about the merits of any pipeline in particular. This is a landowner rights case involving whether a specific statute was invalid under the Nebraska State Constitution.” Domina’s clients contend the law was, and is, unconstitutional and void. The District Court agreed.

Domina stressed, “This is not a commentary on the pipeline project. That subject belongs to the President of the United States exclusively. This ruling means that, in Nebraska, the Governor’s office has no role to play, and all state law decisions must be made by the Public Service Commission.”

A copy of the Court’s Opinion is found HERE (and embedded below):
http://www.dominalaw.com/documents/LB-1161-Court-Order-Feb-19-2014.pdf

Judge Stacy Ruling in Thompson v. Heineman (RE: LB 1161)

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