Court to hear Keystone case in September

Nebraska’s highest court will hear a case on the Keystone XL pipeline’s route in the state in September, possibly pushing the federal decision on the pipeline past the elections.

Court officials told the Washington Post that they’ll hear the case the first week of September. The court would decide the case in October at the earliest, though it could take months longer, the Post said.

An unnamed Obama administration official told the Post that it is “highly unlikely” that State would decide on the pipeline’s permit before the midterms. The official said the timing isn’t because of politics, but because of the time it takes to made the determination.

The State Department announced in April that it would delay its decision on whether to give a permit to Keystone’s final leg while federal officials sorted out what the Nebraska case meant for the pipeline. State did not commit to tying the timeline to the Nebraska decision, but said that it necessitated a delay.

A group of landowners in Nebraska is challenging a state law that finalized Keystone’s route. It also gave TransCanada Corp. the power to use eminent domain for the route.

A lower court said the law violates the state’s constitution.

That caused State to stop the clock on its review, but officials said it could start again at any time.

“We want to be open and flexible to any changes and information and circumstances that could allow us to move more expeditiously,” an official said at the time.

Proponents of the pipeline suspected that the April delay was meant to help Democrats get through the midterm elections. Environmentalists who fear increased greenhouse gas emissions from the oil Keystone would bring cheered the delay.

The controversial pipeline is planned to connect the oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to oil refineries on the United States’ Gulf Coast.