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Keystone XL hearings: TransCanada clashes with opponents

Published by , Senior Editor
World Pipelines,

Opponents of TransCanada Corp’s proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline argued on Tuesday that regulators in Nebraska had no authority to approve the line’s ‘alternative’ path through the state and that the project should be considered dead.

The Nebraska Public Service Commission issued an approval for the line to pass through the state in late November.

But the commission’s approval was not for the route TransCanada had singled out in its application, but for an alternative that shifts it closer to an existing pipeline right-of-way down the eastern side of the state.

David Domina, an attorney for landowners along the Keystone XL route, argued at a commission hearing on Tuesday that Nebraska law specifies the regulatory body can only rule on TransCanada’s preferred route.

“It uses the singular word ‘route.’ It doesn’t use the … plural term ‘routes,’” Domina said.

Tuesday’s hearing was set after TransCanada filed a motion with the commission asking if it could amend its initial application, in a move to head off legal challenges.

By filing an amended application, “we are working to reduce the possibility of the PSC decision being overturned which would compromise our ability to build this project on time and on schedule,” a spokesman for the company told press.

Pipeline opponents say that request should be denied because the Nebraska regulatory body’s statutes do not allow for retroactive amendments to such applications. The commission is considering TransCanada’s new application request.

The five members of the Nebraska Public Service Commission heard oral arguments from attorneys for and against the commission’s 20 November approval of a pipeline route.

A lawyer for TransCanada Corp. said on Tuesday that the company wants to amend its application, which gained approval on a 3-2 vote. Allowing changes to the application and the PSC’s final order would address questions that could prompt more legal challenges and further delays, the lawyer added.

“We think the commission has the perfect opportunity right now to erase any such concern and prevent the risk of relitigating these issues,” said James Powers, an Omaha attorney who represents TransCanada.

TransCanada had asked the PSC to endorse what it called the preferred route for the buried 36 in. pipeline, which would carry 830 000 bpd from Canada’s oilsands region to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

But in an unexpected decision, the PSC approved the “mainline alternative route,” which the company also had included in its application.


The slightly longer alternative route parallels a portion of the company’s original Keystone pipeline, which went into service in 2010.

The commission has 60 days to make a decision on TransCanada’s request. The 20 November order would then probably be appealed to the Nebraska Court of Appeals.

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