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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Nebraska Judge Halts TransCanada Land Grab

OMAHA (CN) - A Nebraska judge Thursday granted a temporary injunction to landowners who want to stop a land grab by TransCanada Keystone Pipeline for its controversial Keystone XL project.

The injunction is the latest development in an intensifying controversy over the construction of a pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Canada across the U.S. Midwest to refineries and shipping hubs on the Gulf Coast.

Congress on Wednesday approved legislation that would force approval of the pipeline, and President Barack Obama said he would veto it.

Landowners in two Nebraska counties sued TransCanada Keystone Pipeline in January, challenging the constitutionality of a state law that grants the Canadian oil giant powers of eminent domain.

Just days after that filing, TransCanada filed 90 eminent domain cases across Nebraska against landowners, who then sought the injunction before any land is condemned, while larger constitutional questions are pending.

"A temporary injunction is necessary and proper to protect the status quo and to prevent any relief the plaintiffs might recover from being rendered ineffectual," Holt County Court Judge Mark D. Kozisek wrote in his 6-page injunction order.

The injunction immediately enjoins condemnation proceedings initiated by TransCanada to acquire Nebraska real estate for the pipeline, pending a final order on the merits of the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's pipeline routing law.

A similar ruling from York County District Court is expected in coming days, that will affect landowners in the affected southern counties of Nebraska.

Byron "Stix" Steskal was lead plaintiff in the Knox County lawsuit, joined by nearly 70 landowners from the affected northeast counties.

The defense did not file a response to the amended complaint, essentially conceding that the injunction was likely.

Plaintiffs were represented by David Domina and Brian Jorde of Domina Law Group.

James Powers and Patrick Pepper of McGrath North appeared on TransCanada's behalf, in addition to Blake Johnson and Ryan Post of the Nebraska Attorney General's office.

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