Nebraska Kestone XL Court Decision and What it Means

Last April, I blogged about the Keystone XL pipeline and it’s implications should it pass the development stages.

Last week, I posted about the new developments, particularly a state report praising the pipeline and explaining why President Obama should approve the development of the pipeline. Below is an except from that post:

Keystone XL Receives Backing – last week, a group of US lawmakers voiced their approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. According to recent news from Reuters, these backers are suggesting that President Obama “bless” the pipeline’s plan. The group includes Gary Doer, Canadian ambassador to the United States (as the driving company is TransCanada), and business and labor leaders. This pressure is due to a State Department report released that concludes that the Keystone XL “pipeline would not spur oil sands development or unduly worsen climate change” (read the report here).

Environmental groups have been worried. Energy companies have been waiting to get their hands on development plans. However, that all may change.

On Wed. Feb. 19,  a Nebraska court “invalidated the governor’s decision to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to pass through the Midwestern state, casting new uncertainty over the controversial project to link Alberta’s oil sands with refineries in Texas,” according to Reuters.

Proposed route of Keystone XL through Nebraska

Last year, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman had supported legislation to clear the way for the pipeline‘s path. Because of this, homeowners rebelled. It has taken until 2014, but a court has ruled that the original legislation “sidestepped” homeowner rights. As a result, the new decision will delay production and planning for up to 5 years.

Here is more information from BoldNebraska about the actual law that was declared “unconstitutional and void”:

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.

So, what does this all mean? For one, as I mentioned, development will be slowed down. This is a huge deal, because a large part of the pipeline and a refinery or two were slated to go through Nebraska.

This is also a win for the Ogallala Aquifer – a shallow aquifer and one of the largest in the world. It spans over eight states (South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma) and is a source for agricultural irrigation and drinking water across the country.

Ogallala Aquifer – notice how much of the reserve is in Nebraska!

According to USDA, there is already a dip in water quality and water levels in the aquifer, and about “30 percent of all groundwater used for irrigation in America is drawn from the Ogallala Aquifer.”

If an oil spill happened in this area, there would be devastating consequences for agriculture, drinking water and wildlife.

As the story develops, we will see if more states take the initiative that Nebraska has. But the question remains: will the pipeline be built somewhere else, despite all of the resistance? Only time will tell.

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