LINCOLN, Neb. — A Nebraska judge on Wednesday struck down a law that allowed the Keystone XL pipeline to proceed through the state, a victory for opponents who have tried to block the project that would carry oil from Canada to Texas refineries.
Lancaster County Judge Stephanie Stacy issued a ruling that invalidated Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman's approval of the route. Stacy agreed with opponents' arguments that a law passed in 2011 improperly allowed Heineman to give TransCanada eminent domain powers within the state. Stacy said the decision should have been made by the Nebraska Public Service Commission, which regulates pipelines and other utilities.
The ruling could cause more delays in finishing the pipeline. State officials who defended the law are likely to appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court. Nebraska lawmakers may have to pass a new pipeline-sitting law to allow the Public Service Commission to act.
If they do, it's not yet clear how long the five-member PSC might take on the issue or whether it would approve the pipeline. Staff members were still reviewing the ruling Wednesday, said Angela Melton, the commission's attorney.
A spokesman for pipeline developer TransCanada said company officials were disappointed and disagreed with the decision, which came in a lawsuit filed by three Nebraska landowners who oppose the pipeline. The company planned to review the ruling before deciding how to proceed.
"TransCanada continues to believe strongly in Keystone XL and the benefits it would provide to Americans — thousands of jobs and a secure supply of crude oil from a trusted neighbor in Canada," said spokesman Shawn Howard.