TransCanada files eminent domain petitions against holdout landowners opposing Keystone XL pipeline – Omaha World-Herald, Jan. 20, 2015

January 20, 2015

Categories: Congress, Landowner Rights, News, Oil and gas, Pipeline

By Joe Durgan

LINCOLN — The Canadian company that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline filed legal action Tuesday against the holdout landowners in an effort to secure the remaining right-of-way for the controversial project.

A representative for TransCanada Corp. said eminent domain petitions were filed in nine counties against “less than 90” landowners. The landowners represent the last people along the 1,187-mile pipeline route to refuse voluntary easement agreements.

“This is just another step in the process,” said Andrew Craig, land manager for the Keystone projects. “Eminent domain has a ring of finality, but we still remain committed to reaching voluntary agreements.”

Under a 2012 state law that approved the pipeline route in Nebraska, the company had until Thursday to file eminent domain actions. Court hearings will follow and an independent panel will determine the value for easements and any crop damage caused by pipeline construction before a judge orders the land condemned.

But the company knows it will encounter continued resistance to its project.

In anticipation of Tuesday’s action, landowners who oppose the pipeline filed lawsuits in York and Holt Counties challenging the constitutionality of the 2012 pipeline siting law. They will now argue the company’s efforts to obtain land rights in court gives them to legal standing to show they could be damaged by the law.

The Nebraska Supreme Court recently allowed the pipeline law to stand by default after three of the seven judges ruled the landowners lacked standing. The court’s remaining four judges ruled the law is unconstitutional, but a super-majority of five votes was needed to overturn the law.

Nebraska’s eminent domain law sides with oil companies and private profits over the farmers and ranchers who are the backbone of Nebraska’s economy, said Jane Kleeb, director of environmental advocacy group Bold Nebraska.

“This is just another bullying move by the foreign corporation that swears they are going to be a good neighbor,” said Jim Tarnick, a landowner along the proposed route who opposes the project and has refused the company’s offers.

Company officials are hopeful the eminent domain process will be concluded within six months, Craig said.

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