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Whats next: Keystone XL Pipeline canceled, lawsuits remain

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 9:40 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - For over a decade the Keystone XL Pipeline has been a point of contention in Nebraska courtrooms and out on the picket lines.

Alberta officials said Wednesday they reached an agreement with TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, to exit that partnership. The company and province plan to try to recoup the government’s investment, although neither offered any immediate details on how that would happen.

“We remain disappointed and frustrated with the circumstances surrounding the Keystone XL project, including the cancellation of the presidential permit for the pipeline’s border crossing,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in a statement.

Alberta invested more than $1 billion in the project last year, kick-starting construction that had stalled amid determined opposition to the line from environmentalists and Native American tribes along its route.

“We stand really proud today knowing that a small group of farmers, ranchers, and tribes from Nebraska stopped big oil,” said Jane Kleeb with Bold Nebraska.

The system would have taken oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast passing through Nebraska on the way.

Domina Law is credited with delaying the project, with its ongoing litigation on behalf of Nebraska landowners.

“I’m sure my clients, all the landowners who I have shared this with will never be too confident,” said Brian Jorde with the firm. “But at least for now and at least through the Biden administration there is no pipeline.”

The project has a long and complex history. The past few presidencies have seen it reverse course several times.

In 2012, President Obama stopped the project. In 2017, it was restarted by the Trump White House. Then a new route was approved by the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

In January 2021, President Biden pulled permits on the project as one of his first acts in office.

“We are modestly optimistic that this means something,” said Jeanne Crumly. “12 years of experience tells us wait and see.”

For landowners like Crumly of Paige, Nebraska there is still legal work to be done. What remains unclear is what will happen to the land taken as part of eminent domain by the Canadian company.

“Does that mean our land should not be condemned, cannot be condemned?” Crumly questioned. “That’s logic. Our land should not be condemned for a project that can’t go forward.”

Right now, Nebraska lacks laws that give landowners legal protection against the act, and many of the cases still open are working to get farmland back.

“We’re entering a fascinating legal question because TransCanada has already taken all of the land in Nebraska,” Jorde said. “We’ve got about 65 active lawsuits on the topic for our clients.”

Governor Pete Ricketts issued a statement, disappointed in the decision:

“This is yet another example of the Biden-Harris Administration putting the priorities of radical environmental activists above our national interest. Without Keystone XL, the United States will not only be more dependent on overseas sources of oil, but our state will not enjoy the benefit of the jobs and property tax revenue the project would have brought.”

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