Landowners Win Injunction in York County Against TransCanada’s Eminent Domain for Keystone XL

Mark Hefflinger
News
Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 9.45.24 AM
Landowners Susan and Bill Dunavan, among the plaintiffs suing TransCanada over eminent domain for Keystone XL (Photo by Alex Matzke)

*CHIP IN $10 NOW TO FUND THE LANDOWNERS’ LAWSUIT*

WATCH: York News-Times interview with plaintiffs and Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska:

WATCH: 10/11 News interviews plaintiffs:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015

Contact:
Jane Kleeb, 402-705-3622, jane@boldnebraska.org

York County Landowners Win Injunction to Halt Eminent Domain
for TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline

Eminent domain now halted throughout Nebraska for est. 12-18 months as
LB 1161 constitutional issues return to Nebraska Supreme Court

York, NE — The District Court in York County, Nebraska on Thursday granted local landowners’ motion for a preliminary injunction to halt TransCanada’s use of eminent domain to take their land for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

This legal process surrounding the pipeline’s route in Nebraska could go on for anywhere from 12-18 months, until the Nebraska Supreme Court reconsiders landowners’ arguments. If landowners win at the Nebraska Supreme Court, TransCanada must reapply for a permit with the state Public Service Commission. Bottom line, the foreign pipeline company is facing up to three years of delay in Nebraska.

“TransCanada was forced to stop using eminent domain for private gain by the Nebraska courts and the landowners who have the courage to stand up to a foreign corporation,” said Bold Nebraska director Jane Kleeb. “If TransCanada wants to show they are being a ‘good neighbor,’ then they will stop sending endless contract proposals and allow the legal process to take place without their constant harassment of landowners.”

“Once again, TransCanada distorts the facts,” added farmer Art Tanderup, a landowner on the proposed pipeline route near Neligh, NE. “They filed eminent domain condemnation proceedings against close to 100 Nebraska landowners. Many of those landowners filed lawsuits that have now halted those eminent domain proceedings. Filing eminent domain claims is not being a responsible good neighbor. In the meantime, TransCanada continues to bully and cash whip hardworking rural Americans who are trying to protect their land, water and livelihood.”

“I wish to thank Judge Gilbride for hearing our request for the injunction to prevent TransCanada from proceeding with eminent domain condemnation,” said landowner Susan Dunavan. “This gives us the time we need to pursue the resolution of the constitutionality of LB 1161. It also gives Nebraskans time to reflect on the unbelievable phenomenon of a foreign corporation taking control of privately owned land for their own private gain.”

“Where was the ‘working with landowners respectfully’ when TransCanada thought it was getting the permit approved?” said landowner Jim Tarnick. “Back then it was, ‘Sign up, or we will take your land with eminent domain.’ Funny how the company’s tone changes when the wheels of justice start turning.”

“TransCanada has recently said that they are agreeing to pause eminent domain condemnation proceedings on landowners as a ‘demonstration of our commitment to work respectively with landowners,'” said landowner Bill Dunavan. “I believe that the justices in this and in future hearings will acknowledge the years and years of threats to landowners from TransCanada and easily recognize that they have been neither gracious nor respectful.”

The ruling in York County follows a Holt County District Court decision on Feb. 13 that similarly granted a preliminary injunction halting TransCanada’s eminent domain proceedings against Nebraska farmers and ranchers. Faced with certain defeat, attorneys for TransCanada at the Feb. 13 hearing said they would make filings to stay every one of their pending eminent domain claims against landowners until the Nebraska Supreme Court hears their case on its merits.

Today’s preliminary injunction granted by District Judge Mary Gilbride in York County officially halts eminent domain proceedings against those specific York County landowners who filed suit against TransCanada over the constitutionality of LB 1161, the state law that eventually granted them eminent domain authority.

The landowners filed suit against TransCanada on Jan. 16, challenging the constitutionality of the Canadian oil company’s authority to invoke eminent domain under LB 1161, the law passed by the Nebraska legislature that took power to grant eminent domain from the Public Service Commission and put it in the hands of then-Governor Dave Heineman.

Landowners’ attorneys with Domina Law Group believe there is a substantial likelihood that the Nebraska Supreme Court will in this new lawsuit revisit their previous challenge to the constitutionality of LB 1161 (Thompson v. Heineman). In that case, four of seven justices ruled the law is unconstitutional, but a supermajority of five was needed to win. However, the remaining three justices refused to rule on the actual merits of the case, finding instead that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the lawsuit.

The filing of eminent domain condemnation claims by TransCanada in January satisfies the “standing” issue for landowners to bring this new suit against TransCanada, and landowners have now been granted an injunction to halt these eminent domain proceedings while the issue of constitutionality of LB 1161 is brought back before the Nebraska Supreme Court.

More info on the landowners’ suit, and links to court filings:
http://boldnebraska.org/landowners-take-legal-action-in-face-of-eminent-domain-threats-from-transcanada/

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