Nebraska Keystone XL Ruling Delivers Big Win for Landowners, Wildlife

Habitat for the red-winged black bird would be threatened by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Flickr photo by David Baron.
In an exciting development in the fight against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, a Nebraska judge on Wednesday struck down a 2012 state law which approved the route of the controversial project through the state. This is a huge win for Nebraska landowners, for clean drinking water, and for all of us who care about protecting America’s wildlife.

Nebraska Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled on Wednesday that the law, pushed through the statehouse by Governor Dave Heineman, is unconstitutional.  The route approved under the now-void law would have crossed one of the nation’s largest aquifers, the Oglalalla—which provides drinking water for two million people in eight states.

The pipeline route would have also crossed the delicate Sandhills region, a native grasslands area that provides critical habitat to numerous wildlife species, including the whooping crane, greater prairie chicken, the red-winged black bird, and the ring-necked pheasant. The Sandhills provide such ideal habitat for hundreds of bird species that the American Bird Conservancy has described the area as “the best grassland bird place in the U.S.” The National Wildlife Federation’s Jim Murphy recently talked to National Geographic about the wildlife in Keystone XL’s path. And of course, there’s also the massive threat posed by Keystone XL’s climate-disrupting carbon pollution.

Here’s a reaction from Jane Kleeb, director of the landowner group Bold Nebraska:

Citizens won today. We beat a corrupt bill that Gov. Heineman and the Nebraska Legislature passed in order to pave the way for a foreign corporation to run roughshod over American landowners. We look forward to the Public Service Commission giving due process to a route that TransCanada will have to now submit to this proper regulatory body in Nebraska. TransCanada learned a hard lesson today: never underestimate the power of family farmers and ranchers protecting their land and water.

Decisions Loom

So, Keystone XL no longer has an approved route through the state of Nebraska. However, Nebraska’s attorney general has already said he will appeal the decision, which may turn the decision over the pipeline’s route in Nebraska to the state Public Utilities Commission, which could mean more court wrangling.

Photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Robert Palmer.
Prairie chicken habitat is also threatened by the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Robert Palmer.
But Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama don’t need to wait. They have all the information they need to reject KXL. And until they do, our coalition of landowners, conservationists, and public health advocates won’t stop fighting Keystone XL.

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