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Nebraska Rules TransCanada Off The Hook In Eminent Domain Case

The Nebraska state Supreme Court ruled last Friday that the developer of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline is not bound to reimburse attorneys who defended landowners who had sued the company for its illicit land rights practices.

TransCanada Inc. filed eminent domain claims against 71 landowners in the state, but later dropped them when uncertainty rose over the proper use of the constitutional provision. The homeowners had to hire lawyers to defend their property.

"We conclude that none of the landowners established that they were entitled to attorney fees," Chief Justice Michael Heavican wrote in the opinion.

Omaha Attorney Dave Domina claims his clients are owed $350,000 to cover lawyer fees, since by dropping the cases, the company effectively lost the lawsuits.

TransCanada attorney James Powers argued that the landowners did not prove that they had paid the lawyers in the first place.

"We're pleased the Nebraska Supreme Court agreed with our legal position," Powers said Friday.

Eminent domain is a tough pill to swallow for Americans who take their property rights very seriously, and aggressive moves by other oil and natural gas pipeline projects have invoked passionate lawsuits as well.  In other cases, the critical importance of a planned infrastructure enhancement overpowers any property rights arguments.

In 2016, Sabal Trail, the joint venture planning to build a 500-mile natural gas pipeline through Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, went to court in order to secure the right of way through the land where the pipeline should pass.

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Florida satisfies almost two-thirds of its power needs with natural gas, making it tough for landowners to argue against the welfare of their fellow citizens. Coal is a distant second at around 22 percent, making gas the major source of power for the state. The numbers are not as high for Georgia and Alabama, but natural gas is a significant component of the energy source mix there as well.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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