Keystone builder files for eminent domain for pipeline route

The company building the Keystone XL oil pipeline is filing eminent domain claims to take easements for the pipe from landowners who do not want to willingly sell their land rights.

TransCanada Corp. said Tuesday that it filed the court documents in Nebraska for the parts of the planned pipeline route for which it does not have easements, which amounts to 12 percent of the route.

“Despite the filings, TransCanada will continue to work to acquire voluntary easement agreements,” Andrew Craig, who is leading the Keystone land efforts for TransCanada, said in a statement.

“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. “Eminent domain is a last resort and our first priority is always to negotiate voluntary agreements with landowners.”

The company said landowners will continue to own and use the land, including for farming.

Eminent domain is usually reserved for governments wishing to take land or easements. But a Nebraska law gives TransCanada the power to take land for Keystone.

A group of landowners challenged that law in court in a high-profile case that threatened to derail the pipeline. But earlier this month, the state’s highest court affirmed the law and the route.

Some of those landowners said last week that they would file individual challenges to their eminent domain filings in another attempt to stop the pipeline.