Nebraska law that allowed Keystone XL pipeline is struck down

LINCOLN, Neb. — A Nebraska judge on Wednesday struck down a law that allowed the Keystone XL oil pipeline to proceed through the state, a victory for opponents who have tried to block the project.

Lancaster County Judge Stephanie Stacy's ruling invalidated Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman's approval of the route. Stacy agreed with opponents' arguments that a law passed in 2011 improperly delegated the decision-making power to Heineman to give the company eminent domain powers within the state. Stacy said the decision should have been made by the Nebraska Public Service Commission, which regulates pipelines and other utilities.

The lawsuit was filed by three Nebraska landowners who oppose the pipeline, which is intended to carry oil from Canada's shale deposits to the Gulf of Mexico. Foes contend that a leak could pollute the groundwater. 

“Under the court's ruling, TransCanada has no approved route in Nebraska,” Dave Domina, the landowners' attorney, said in a statement. “TransCanada is not authorized to condemn the property against Nebraska landowners. The pipeline project is at standstill in this state.”

Domina said the ruling means the governor's office has no role to play in the pipeline, and decisions within the state must be made by the Public Service Commission. The decision on a federal permit still rests with President Obama.

The ruling could cause more delays in finishing the pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to Texas refineries.

Phone messages left with pipeline developer TransCanada were not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.

Last month, the U.S. State Department determined that Keystone would have a negligible effect on climate change. Obama has said that his main concern is that the pipeline not worsen carbon pollution. 

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