TransCanada has kick-started eminent domain proceedings in nine Nebraska counties after the Nebraska Supreme Court ruling essentially left in place the company’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline route across the Nebraska Sandhills.
The company announced Tuesday it had filed the necessary paperwork in those counties where landowners reside along the route. At this point, TransCanada has acquired 88% of the land needed in Nebraska.
The action comes at a time when the U.S. Senate is set to vote on amendments and possibly vote on a bill to approve the project, by as early as next week. One of those amendments was to remove corn-based ethanol from the Renewable Fuel Standard. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said during a press conference with agriculture reporters Tuesday it was unlikely the amendment would be attached to the bill.
“I don’t think they will go through with it,” Grassley said about the amendment. “I think you get a certain amount of intellectual dishonesty in these amendments. We need a clean Keystone pipeline bill going to the president.”
Andrew Craig, land manager for Keystone Projects based in Omaha, said in a statement through TransCanada that the company remains ready to negotiate with landowners of the final 12% of land needed. The company said it has all landowner easements acquired in Montana and South Dakota.
“This action was required, if needed, within two years of TransCanada receiving its January 2013 approval in the state,” the company said in a statement. “That time period expires on Jan. 22, 2015. This does not eliminate the ability to negotiate voluntary easement agreements.”
Craig said TransCanada would continue to work to acquire “voluntary” easement agreements.
“If we are unable to come to agreement, a panel of local appraisers appointed by the county court will recommend a value for compensation,” he said in a statement. “As with voluntary easements, landowners continue to own and farm the land. TransCanada is acquiring the right to construct, operate and maintain a pipeline below ground.”
Bold Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb said landowners would continue to fight TransCanada’s efforts to acquire the remaining land.
“Landowners are prepared to battle TransCanada, a foreign corporation that is using eminent domain for private gain,” she said.
“Farmers and ranchers have the grit and stomach to prevent TransCanada from polluting our water and taking their land. Landowners will match TransCanada’s lawsuits in local courts and continue to take our fight to the one person who can put an end to all of this — President Obama.”
Several Nebraska landowners filed lawsuits last week in two different counties in an attempt to have a judge again rule unconstitutional the law that allowed the governor to approve a route for the pipeline. This came after four of the five Nebraska Supreme Court justices needed ruled the law unconstitutional. The court ruled the landowners in the case didn’t have standing.
The new lawsuits, Kleeb said, are different in that these landowners already have received written notice from the company threatening eminent domain proceedings.
Because of the Nebraska Supreme Court ruling, the new pipeline route approved by the governor in January 2013 “remains valid,” Craig said. “Nebraska siting laws require us to commence eminent domain, if needed, within two years of the state’s January 2013 approval of the project. That time period expires Thursday.”
Craig said eminent domain is a “last resort and our first priority is always to negotiate voluntary agreements with landowners.
“However, where needed, eminent domain allows necessary commodities like food, oil, natural gas and power to have the safe transportation corridors needed to get to where they are used: in homes, factories and the 250 million vehicles that need to start up each day in America.”
Craig said TransCanada has made “numerous offers to negotiate generous agreements with all landowners.
“These actions today follow our efforts late last year to reach out broadly to remaining landowners and Nebraskans through direct correspondence and through local media to inform them of the timelines we are under as a result of the law,” he said. “We have waited as long as we could under state law before beginning the process — as we said we would do.”