Court deals Keystone new setback

Nebraska landowners trying to stop the Keystone XL oil pipeline from being built won a small victory Thursday with a court action that, at least temporarily, delays the project.

Mark Kozisek, a district judge in northern Nebraska, granted more than 90 landowners in his jurisdiction a temporary injunction that stops TransCanada Corp., the developer behind Keystone, from taking the land rights that it seeks for the pipeline.

The company is using a 2012 law that survived a court challenge last month to file eminent domain proceedings and take land rights from landowners who have not agreed to sell easements.

The action is temporary and not a ruling on the merits of the landowners’ cases against TransCanada. It gives the court a chance to review the cases while holding off on the eminent domain actions themselves.

But Dave Domina and Brian Jorde, the lawyers representing the residents, look it as a victory.

“We have always known our constitutional law arguments are very strong,” Domina said in a statement. “The law holds things in their status quo until substantial issues like those we have raised are decided.”

TransCanada did not challenge the injunction.

Mark Cooper, a spokesman for the company, said it is confident that its filings are legal, but it agreed to the court’s action.

“All parties are keenly interested in a decision from the court that provides finality of the route approval and the related legislation,” Cooper said in a statement. “We are committed to working respectfully with all landowners as shown by today’s decision to stay eminent domain actions until there is a final resolution of the plaintiffs’ claims.”

TransCanada had to file the eminent domain claims despite not having federal approval for the pipeline because Nebraska’s law gave the company a deadline.

The injunction came less than a day after the House passed a bill to approve the pipeline, sending it to Obama, who has pledged to veto it.