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Nebraska judge strikes down state law that allowed Keystone XL pipeline

A judge for the Third Judicial District Court of Nebraska [official website] on Wednesday struck down [decision, PDF] a law that allowed the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to pass through the state. The law, LB 1161 [text, PDF] was passed by the Nebraska legislature in 2012 and amended the Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act (MOPSA) allowing an alternative method for oil pipeline carriers to seek review and approval of a proposed pipeline route through Nebraska, effectively granting [WP report] the state's governor the power to select and approve pipeline routes. Confining her opinion to a determination of the constitutionality of the law, Lancaster County Judge Stephanie Stacy found that the state legislature's stripping of routing power away from its Public Service Commission and granting it to Governor Dave Heineman [official website] was a violation of Article IV section 20 [text] of the State constitution. The decision permanently enjoins the state government from "acting pursuant to the Governor's January 22, 2013 approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline route." The defendants in the case, including Heineman, have filed an appeal [text, PDF] to the Nebraska Supreme Court [official website].

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has generated significant controversy. The proposed expansion [WP report] of the existing Keystone pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of heavy crude oil daily from the tar sand producing regions of Alberta, Canada to refining facilities on the Gulf of Mexico. The planned $5.4 billion pipeline would extend from Alberta to Steele City, Kansas where the XL would tap into the existing pipeline system. In January the US Department of State [official website] concluded in its final environmental assessment [text] of the Keystone XL pipeline that construction and operation of the pipeline would be unlikely to alter global greenhouse gas emissions. Under US law TransCanada [official website], the company seeking to build the pipeline, must receive a permit from the US Department of State because the project crosses the US-Canada border. According to the State Department, Executive Order 13337 [text; PDF] grants the Secretary of State "the power to decide whether a project serves the national interest before granting a Presidential Permit." If a Presidential Permit is granted construction of the project can commence.

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