FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 18, 2014
State Department Announces Delay in Keystone XL Process After Nebraska Court
Invalidates TransCanada Route
Final Nebraska Supreme Court decision not expected until at least January 2015
Lincoln, Nebraska — The U.S. State Department announced today that it will extend the government comment period on the Keystone XL pipeline, citing the uncertainty of the route in Nebraska after Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled in February that Nebraska’s pipeline siting law is “unconstitutional and void.”
The delay will likely postpone Pres. Obama’s final decision on whether or not to grant TransCanada a permit to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. until after the Nov. 4 midterm elections, as a decision from the Nebraska Supreme Court is not expected until January 2015 at the earliest.
“The State Department is following Pres. Obama’s lead who has said all along he wants to follow the process. The basic fact that Nebraska has no legal route is reason to delay any decision until our state can analyze a route using a process that follows our state constitution,” said Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, a grassroots group that has led the fight against Keystone XL in the state.
“Nebraska landowners will not give up their property rights with bad contract terms and unknown chemicals risking our water. This delay is yet more proof this project is not permit-able and not in our national interest,” added Kleeb.
Dave Domina, attorney with Domina Law Group representing Nebraska landowners at the state Supreme Court:
“While I have not seen the State Department or White House public comments, a decision to delay action on TransCanada’s border crossing permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, I am not surprised. The President has insisted that he have all the facts about the pipeline and the route before making his Executive Decision. Nebraska’s Supreme Court must decide a state law question. The decision bears directly on where, when, and if the pipeline company will be permitted to operate across Nebraska. The President knows the current route may change. And it should… it still crosses the Ogallala aquifer.”
“My landowner clients are standing up for the Nebraska Constitution in the face of an attempt by big oil and politicians to run over it. They are grateful that the President respects their position,” added Domina.
More Information and Timeline:
The Nebraska lawsuit in question, Thompson v. Heineman, challenged the constitutionality of LB 1161, a law passed by the Nebraska legislature that fast-tracked the routing process for Keystone XL, which would have normally gone through the state’s Public Service Commission.
Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled on Feb. 19, 2014 that LB 1161 is unconstitutional, siding with the three Nebraska landowners who sued Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning, and the arguments made by landowners’ attorney Dave Domina and Domina Law Group. The ruling has been appealed directly to the Nebraska Supreme Court which is expected to hear the case this Fall and announce a ruling possibly in Jan. 2015.
If the court upholds Judge Stacy’s ruling, TransCanada will need to apply to the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC). That agency must then conduct a pipeline construction impact study, which may determine a route change is necessary. The PSC process can take up to 7 months.
TransCanada’s South Dakota permit also expires on June 20th, which means the company would have to reapply for a permit in that state as well. The South Dakota process could take from 6 months to a year.
We do not see any decision before late 2015 as the state process gets finalized.
Statement of Ken Winston, Nebraska Sierra Club:
“Today’s delay is another victory for all the people who have spoken out against KXL in the past four years, the thousands who have attended State Department and legislative hearings, attended rallies, written letters, made phone calls and signed petitions. Your sacrifices, your voices have made the difference throughout this process. Every delay means that more tar sands will stay in the ground. The longer this goes on, the more people find out about KXL and its threats to our water, land and climate, the more likely they are to oppose it. To paraphrase my daughter Helen, TransCanada may have the money, but when people come together, we have the power.”
The full statement released by the U.S. Department of State on April 18 is below:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release: April 18, 2014
Keystone XL Pipeline Project Review Process:
Provision of More Time for Submission of Agency Views
On April 18, 2014, the Department of State notified the eight federal agencies specified in Executive Order 13337 we will provide more time for the submission of their views on the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project.Agencies need additional time based on the uncertainty created by the on-going litigation in the Nebraska Supreme Court which could ultimately affect the pipeline route in that state.
In addition, during this time we will review and appropriately consider the unprecedented number of new public comments, approximately 2.5 million, received during the public comment period that closed on March 7, 2014.
The agency consultation process is not starting over. The process is ongoing, and the Department and relevant agencies are actively continuing their work in assessing the Permit application.
The Permit process will conclude once factors that have a significant impact on determining the national interest of the proposed project have been evaluated and appropriately reflected in the decision documents. The Department will give the agencies sufficient time to submit their views.