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Nebraska Court Decision to Delay Keystone XL

A Nebraska court found that the state law used to approve the Keystone XL project in Nebraska is unconstitutional. The state passed a law that allowed TransCanada to submit an application to either the Public Service Commission or to the Governor for approval. TransCanada chose to submit an application to Governor Dave Heineman, who approved the project. Judge Stephanie Stacy declared the law that took power away from the Public Service Commission unconstitutional, voiding the state’s approval of the pipeline.

The decision throws the Keystone XL project into disarray. The judge prohibited the Governor “from taking any action on the governor’s January 22, 2013 approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline route,” meaning the project, for now, cannot move forward.

Related Article: Keystone XL’s Miniscule CO2 Impact and the Bigger Picture

The surprise decision is a victory for landowners in Nebraska who took the case to court. It also provides political cover for the Obama administration to slow walk any decision on the pipeline, perhaps until after the mid-term elections. The President seemed to be in a no-win situation with the decision – approving or rejecting it would anger key voting blocks. Presumably he can now point to the court decision as a reason for not taking action for another year or so.

The court decision came the same day that President Obama met with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts in Toluca, Mexico. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pressed Obama on the issue, calling it a “no brainer.” Obama was unbending in his stance that the pipeline must go through the proper process. “Keystone will proceed along the path that’s already been set forth. I know it’s been extensive and at times, I’m sure, Stephen feels, a little too laborious,” he said, according to Bloomberg.

To receive approval, the Keystone XL pipeline would now need approval from the Nebraska Public Service Commission, which theoretically will undertake a more extensive review than the Governor.  

By James Burgess of Oilprice.com

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  • Martin Katchen on February 21 2014 said:
    Suddenly, the move in Colorado for the northeasternmost five counties to secede from Colorado could become relevant. The problem in Nebraska has always been that Keystone provides very little for Nebraska beyond a few construction jobs. A new route for Keystone, laborious as it would be to get it through the approval process, from South Dakota into Wyoming and bypassing Nebraska entirely would be an alternative, but for the fact that Colorado is a relatively liberal state, (even if such a route would also tie into the Niobrara Shale and Wattenberg Basins) in SE Wyoming and NE Colorado). But if the Northeast counties of Colorado can secede, which might just be possible if a) the Republicans win control of both Houses of the Colorado Legislature and b) the Republicans keep the US House of Representatives and gain six Senate seats) an alternative alignment for Keystone suddenly becomes feasible again. And because of the vagarieites of water use in the area, it might be feasible to get approval also for several Wyoming counties that are chronically whort of water and the also water short Nebraska panhandle counties to become part of this Niobrara state as well, since such a state could use the downstream fkow of the South Platte River from Denver to bring water to places such as the Lodgepole Creek watershed (Cheyuenne WY and Sidney NB and perhaps even as far as the North Platte (Torrington WY and Scottsbluff NB and perhaps even the upper Niobrara Basin (Lusk WY and CHadron NB). Wyoming might well approve such a measure (which would create another reliably Republican "red " state, even though it would mean moving the state capital from Cheyenne (perhaps to more centrally located Casper or even Lander WY), since Cheyenne has no water with which to grow as it stands now and Wyoming cannot afford to build a water pipeline from the Green River and perhaps even a diversion of Wyoming's allocation of the Snake River into the Green River. And Nebraska might well decide that it is well rid of it's western counties, particularly if it means another "red" state. Lots of possibilities here, as the two parties jockey for permament governing majorities. THere is nothing sacred about having only 50 states if one party gets the chance for a permament majority by increasing the m,umber of "safe" states for it.

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