UPDATE 1-Nebraska court hears questions about Keystone XL pipeline plan

Fri Sep 5, 2014 3:06pm EDT
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By Carson Vaughan

LINCOLN, Nebraska, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Nebraska's Supreme Court heard arguments on Friday about whether Governor Dave Heineman acted properly when he blessed a route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and the court's decision could weigh on the controversial project.

A lawyer for landowners who may be in the pipeline's path hoped to persuade the seven-member panel that Heineman overreached and that a decision on the route should be left to an independent state agency.

The 30-minute hearing played out in the court's somber wood-paneled chamber. Keystone opponents who watched the proceedings from an adjacent room, were not so subdued.

"It just makes sense, how can they not see that," said Shannon Graves, a Nebraska landowner who opposes the plan and was in the viewing room.

At issue was a 2012 law that gave Heineman authority to approve a route for TransCanada Corp's proposed $5.4 billion pipeline. The project, which would connect Western Canada's oil sands region with Texas refineries, is now in a sixth year of debate.

Siting issues are typically a matter for the state's Public Services Commission (PSC) but the legislature authorized Heineman to settle the Keystone issue and he blessed a route for the 1,700-mile pipeline early last year.

Nebraska law tolerates that kind of intervention from its legislature, argued Katherine Spohn, deputy attorney general.   Continued...