Maureen and Rich Johnson (center, red t-shirts) at the annual Ponca corn planting in the path of Keystone XL, 2018

Landowners, Bold Nebraska Rejoice as TC Energy Abandons Eminent Domain Claims for Terminated Keystone XL Pipeline

Landowners faced continued eminent domain litigation, despite revocation of presidential permit & project’s cancellation; Bold Nebraska vows to continue fighting until all easements relinquished and land returned

Hastings, NE — Bold Nebraska and allied landowners with the Nebraska Easement Action Team rejoiced on Monday at the news that TC Energy (formerly TransCanada) has finally agreed to terminate easements still being sought via eminent domain proceedings in Nebraska county courts for its now-terminated Keystone XL pipeline project.

“We are so happy that most of the landowners stuck together. It’s been a long, drawn-out affair, but we are so happy that it is finally over! In the future, we all need to be proactive and aware, so something so wrong doesn’t ever get this far again. Protecting land and water should be everyone’s duty.” —Richard & Maureen Johnson, landowners on the cancelled Keystone XL route in Madison County, Nebraska

“It is harvest time here in Holt County, and while harvesting the corn and beans is great, this year we’re also reaping a decades-long fight against the condemnation of our land. While we are celebrating these harvests, we know the work continues, because ultimately we have to reform our eminent domain laws.”—Jeanne Crumly, landowner on the cancelled Keystone XL route in Holt County, Nebraska

“A decades-long fight against the Keystone XL pipeline has now ended for these landowners with property rights being restored. Not a single statewide elected official, including Gov. Ricketts — who went on a tour touting property rights — stood with landowners. Land justice happened only because of the hard work of citizens, grassroots organizing, and a legal team who believed the land was worth protecting.” —Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska Founder

Nebraska county courts entered into the formal record on Sept. 27, 2021 orders stating, “Keystone is directed to record a termination of easement with the Register of Deeds.”

The date of Sept. 27 is symbolic to pipeline fighters, because it is the same day Bold Nebraska hosted the historic “Harvest the Hope” NoKXL benefit in 2014, featuring Willie Nelson and Neil Young headlining a concert in a corn field along the proposed route in Neligh, NE.

The work is not fully completed to protect property rights. Hundreds of other landowners along the proposed route still have easements on their land for a pipeline that will never be built, because Nebraska does not have laws in place to ensure their property rights are restored in the event a pipeline project is cancelled. Easement terms are also often signed “in perpetuity.” This means landowners could face another pipeline threat — like the new proposed CO2 pipeline projects in the state — without having any say on the use of their land.

Bold Nebraska is now committed to seeking local, state, and federal legislation on the following issues:

  • New legislation to fix the issue of eminent domain and easements when a proposed project gets cancelled or decommissioned, so that property rights and land deeds are restored fully to the landowners. It is fundamentally wrong that a pipeline corporation could still use eminent domain to seize a landowner’s property, when the intended project does not possess and is not seeking the necessary permits, and even after the project itself has been terminated by its backers.
  • Comprehensive zoning ordinances for counties that protect water and agricultural land use — including setbacks, decommissioning, pollution clean-up, bonds, and road haul agreements.
  • Greater public disclosure around proposed pipeline projects, including searchable maps of the proposed route; safety procedures and interactions with first responders; corporate ownership of the pipeline; landowner agreements; insurance; and decommissioning.

The only way this latest victory was possible is because landowners stood together, groups on the ground engaged in constant grassroots organizing, and the legal team at Domina Law Group never gave up on protecting the property rights of Nebraskans against a foreign oil corporation.

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Order to Rescind Condemnation Proceeding