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Nebraska court clears path for presidential decision on Keystone

President Barack Obama had said he was waiting for the ruling before making major decisions


 
Bloomberg Photo/Scott Dalton

Bloomberg Photo/Scott Dalton

WASHINGTON — The Keystone XL pipeline decision now rests in President Barack Obama’s hands, with a Nebraska court clearing an obstacle that has delayed a decision on the Canadian project.

Obama had repeatedly said he couldn’t finish a review on the project until Nebraska’s Supreme Court ruled in a dispute over the route — and the verdict is in.

Friday’s judgment by the state supreme court will come as a relief to pipeline backers.

By the narrowest of margins, a panel of seven judges struck down a lower-court decision that a state law approving the pipeline route was adopted by unconstitutional methods.

Four judges out of seven today actually sided against the pipeline route _ but that wasn’t enough. In Nebraska, it takes a supermajority of five judges out of seven to declare a state law unconstitutional.

“No member of this court opines that the law is constitutional,” the ruling pointed out. “But the four judges who
have determined that (the pipeline law) is unconstitutional, while a majority, are not a supermajority as required under the Nebraska Constitution … Accordingly, we vacate the district court’s judgment.”

The end of the Nebraska case means the president can soon wrap up his administration’s review into the project. Obama could also, in theory, sign a law expected to pass Congress but he has threatened to veto that legislation.

Keystone legislation is now making its way through both houses of the U.S. Congress. It’s expected to easily pass the House of Representatives, and undergo a series of amendments in the Senate as members stick their own priorities into the bill to increase its chances of passing.

Project proponents hope that the lawmakers pack it with enough of the president’s own priorities to tempt him into backing down on his unequivocal veto threat.

Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) has been waiting for more than six years for a U.S. permit to build the $8-billion pipeline, which has become a major irritant in Canada-U.S. relations.

The pipeline would connect to an existing TransCanada system, enabling some 830,000 barrels of crude per day, mostly from Alberta, to more directly reach the lucrative Gulf Coast market by cutting diagonally from the Saskatchewan-Montana border to Steele City, Neb.


 
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