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Excerpt: "The developer of the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Tuesday made good on its promise to try to seize access to the Nebraska land it needs to finish the project - the first steps it has taken since the state's high court removed a major legal barrier."

A sign opposing TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is seen in a field near Bradshaw, Nebraska, in 2013. (photo: Nati Harnik/AP)
A sign opposing TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is seen in a field near Bradshaw, Nebraska, in 2013. (photo: Nati Harnik/AP)


Keystone XL Pipeline Developer Takes Steps to Seize Land in Nebraska

By The Associated Press

22 January 15

 

he developer of the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Tuesday made good on its promise to try to seize access to the Nebraska land it needs to finish the project – the first steps it has taken since the state’s high court removed a major legal barrier.

TransCanada employees said the company filed legal papers in nine Nebraska counties to invoke eminent domain for the land that is needed to construct, operate and maintain the pipeline. The filings come just before the company’s two-year window closes on Thursday.

The pipeline still faces legal challenges in Nebraska, even though the state’s supreme court allowed the route to stand by default. Opponents have sued to try to prevent the Calgary-based company from using eminent domain and to overturn the state pipeline-siting law that allowed ​the former governor Dave Heineman to approve the route in 2013.

The pipeline would carry an estimated 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines headed for Gulf ​coast refineries.

By law, TransCanada can use the courts to force Nebraska landowners to sell access to their land. Company officials say they still need to acquire 12% of the total land easements from owners who have not yet reached a deal. Some holdouts have said they will not negotiate no matter how much TransCanada offers.

The company has acquired 100% of the private landowner easements in Montana and South Dakota, according to TransCanada’s Keystone projects land manager, Andrew Craig.

“This is all we have left,” Craig said. “We think 88% voluntarily agreements in the last two years is a substantial success.”

Pipeline opponents argue that many of the landowners in Montana and South Dakota were “bullied” early in the process and told they had no other option.

Craig said the company has secured voluntary agreements with as many as 96% of the landowners in some of the remaining Nebraska counties. And he expects the company will sign agreements with at least half of the remaining landowners without having to use eminent domain.

Those still willing to negotiate mostly have concerns about compensation and restoration of native grasslands that could take three to five years to regrow, Craig said.

Jim Tarnick has received at least six offers – ranging from $30,000 to $58,000 – for his land on the route just south of Fullerton. TransCanada also sent the 39-year-old a letter and tried to call him last week after the court’s ruling. He opposes the pipeline and plans to continue fighting it, though he is not part of the new lawsuits.

“If we can’t stop the project, we at least have to do what’s best for us and future generations,” said Tarnick, who is concerned about the pipeline’s possible effects on groundwater and soil. “When they’re done with it, we’re going to be left with a pipe in the ground.”

Environmentalists and other pipeline opponents argue that any leaks could contaminate water sources and the project would increase air pollution around refineries and harm wildlife. Supporters, including state and national Republicans and oil industry members, say those fears are exaggerated and argue that the pipeline would create jobs and ease the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

President Barack Obama has downplayed the project’s benefits, and the White House has publicly threatened to veto legislation in Congress that would fast-track the project.

Nebraska lawmakers may debate the issue again this session. State senator Ernie Chambers introduced a bill on Tuesday that would repeal the pipeline-siting law and bring the project “to a virtual standstill”.

“The pipeline is like King Kong, and the people and farms are like ants and grasshoppers,” Chambers said. “If they get in the way, they will be crushed with no redress.”

It’s not clear how the bill will be received in the legislature.

In the two lawsuits filed last week – which could delay the entire 1,179-mile Canada-to-Nebraska project – seven landowners in Holt and York counties said they had received written warning that TransCanada intends to initiate eminent domain proceedings.

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+17 # Colleen Clark 2015-01-22 11:19
The recent pipeline break on the Yellowstone River and contamination of a drinking water supply in Montana should give pause.
 
 
-8 # lnason@umassd.edu 2015-01-22 12:15
The use of eminent domain to enhance corporate profits should be prohibited.

Unfortunately in the Kelo decision, widely praised by progressives and liberals, the Supreme Court decided otherwise. When will progressives and liberals ever learn that the very measures they advocate to advance their pet causes will always eventually be used against them.

Thus it was with "hate speech" laws, affirmative action, etc., etc.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
 
 
+7 # indian weaver 2015-01-22 12:50
If anyone took my land, privacy, peace and quiet, I know what I'd do to them, without any hesitation. Take my life? Go ahead ... make my day.
 
 
+14 # jstick 2015-01-22 13:04
The legal foundation of eminent domain is to confiscate land for projects in the PUBLIC interest: roads, schools, etc. The benefits from the Keystone XL pipeline go solely to the Koch Brothers and their oil cronies. This land seizure is patently illegal and the Nebraska supreme court should have ruled accordingly.
President Obama will be fully justified to veto any bill authorizing this travesty of U.S. property rights.
 
 
+8 # BrainiacV 2015-01-22 15:00
You know they'll argue that it is in the public interest to seize the land because it will create jobs. I remember there was a case where land was seized from a homeowner so they could build a mall. The personal landowner's rights were trumped by the public need to buy things.
 
 
+13 # Urbancurmudgeon 2015-01-22 13:20
jstick is right. Eminent Domain was created to help provide benefits for American cities and the American public. To take land from Americans for a foreign company and to create a situation that is absolutely guaranteed to destroy the great watershed through which it will be forced, is contrary to everything the constitution stands for.

Where are all those gunners who backed the crook Cliven Bundy when there is a real, honest and American cause to stand up for. The were willing to stand up to U.S. Marshals to benefit a tax cheat. Will theory be willing to stand up to oil company security thugs to benefit honest landowners who are fighting for their own land and an environmental cause?

Line up all you gunners and protect the farmland of Nebraska from foreign invaders. This decision is being bought and paid for. Show them they can't buy American's rights.
 
 
+2 # bckrd1 2015-01-22 18:45
no one should be able to write a law trumping the Constitution unless it is to add more protections not less.

This should apply and over ride the Gov. This was written for the protection of the citizens and the state nor fed should be able to abridge it even through legislation.

Due Process Clause
Main article: Due Process Clause

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies against only the states, but it is otherwise textually identical to the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which applies against the federal government; both clauses have been interpreted to encompass identical doctrines of procedural due process and substantive due process.[72] Procedural due process is the guarantee of a fair legal process when the government seeks to burden[jargon] a person's protected interests in life, liberty, or property, and substantive due process is the guarantee that the fundamental rights of citizens will not be encroached on by government.[73] The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment also incorporates most of the provisions in the Bill of Rights, which were originally applied against only the federal government, and applies them against the states.[74]
 
 
+13 # Regina 2015-01-22 13:43
Since when can eminent domain cross international borders? Has there been a secret treaty ceding Nebraska land to Canada?
 
 
+9 # reiverpacific 2015-01-22 13:56
This kind of travesty is more in the spirit of "National Sacrifice Areas", like Pine Ridge, the Badlands National Monument and many others, including much of Appalachia with it's mountaintop removals and failed toxic sludge tailings dams.
For anybody who doesn't know, a National Sacrifice Area (generally under the guise of rape and plunder of land for resources to keep the military death machine operating) is a resource-rich tract of land formerly considered of no value, so the Indians and poor were stuck with them but then were entered, plundered, raped and polluted after usable resources for the Corporate/Milit ary behemoth were discovered, with no consideration nor intentions of restoration.
After which the former inhabitants were welcome to return and live with the effects like poisoned rivers and aquifers, hacked and burned forests, devastated land stripped of all nutrients and disfigured landscapes also to be enjoyed by their "Unimportant"
neighbors.
Not to mention deformed babies, animals and accelerated rates of cancer!
"When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”
Cree prophesy.
 
 
+11 # Street Level 2015-01-22 14:19
I can't imagine that we're simply going to let this happen. How is it that a foreign country can be allowed to seize land? Most of the world calls this war and the politicians who set this up are traitors.
 
 
+2 # indian weaver 2015-01-22 15:41
The congress and administration are all traitors anymore. I know what traitors deserve. Execution. If not by the court, then by the patriots who love their land and life on it.
 
 
+2 # bckrd1 2015-01-22 18:47
we the people could sue I suppose or make a charge of sedition against them. I am sure the country would agree that congress is our greatest threat to our well being.
 
 
+1 # ronnewmexico 2015-01-22 14:25
Peoples in america are largly under a mistaken impression. That being that they own their land.
Ed descends from feudal times essentially. Back in the day the lord owned all the land, you did not really ever own it though you grow crops on it and may have for centuries.
It then represented in english common law. It has evolved over time so that now the government replaces the lord as true owner. And we added in our constitution, nuance to it..That nuance is, we must rightly compensate those whose property we condemn for use. That particular is always then the source of litigation on the issue.

No one ever owns land even though commonly they think they do. Non payment of land taxes is the most overt example.…Stop paying taxes and it reverts back in ownership to the true owner…the government. Mineral drilling rights can be sold out from under you. The only caravet it that, as per the constitution,.. you must be rightfully compensated.
In england back in the day…that was not required.
 
 
-1 # ronnewmexico 2015-01-22 14:46
For those that are inclined to act emotionally on my statement…pleas e read Wikiipedia on ED. IN that specific, they do a pretty good job of the issue. People pay for land and get quite emotional when another states..you do not own what you pay for….so I expect some will get emotional on my statement.

It extends into common law and its inception with feudalism and right of lord and king, and our US constitutional response to it(it was quite a heated debate back in the day of revolutionary times)….so all must be endeavored to study the issue of ed.
 
 
+3 # Nominae 2015-01-22 16:05
Quoting ronnewmexico:
For those that are inclined to act emotionally.....
.

You may be pleased to find that many people fully comprehend the fact that land, when purchased, is not "owned" in the sense that the purchaser is allowed to use it in *any* way they may see fit. Say, strip mining it.

No piece of the Earth stands alone. It is all part of one ecosystem.

I am willing to conjecture that most people who have ever owned land are fully aware that what you are actually purchasing is control of *ACCESS* to that property.

Land purchased some time ago included the mineral rights (and that of all other extractables) beneath it.

Not so for land that has not been "grandfathered in" after the Oil Co. Lobbyists managed to change that old law regarding purchased land including mineral rights.

So, if you are *not* grandfathered on your own land, oil companies can *STILL* come in on your "private property" and drill any damned place they see fit, comfortably and legally absolved from any and all responsibility under the Clean Air and the Clean Water Acts by none other than Darth Chaney himself in a "Secret" National Energy conference held when he was V.P.

For those sufficiently innocent to think that laws have a damned thing to do with anything when faced with big money, YES, a "Secret" National Energy Plan *IS* illegal, Virginia, but then, so is torture and sundry other war crimes blithely committed by our Corporate Gov't. under either party.
 
 
-1 # ronnewmexico 2015-01-22 16:13
No that is not my experience. In america most people are unaware of history, and legal standings of things, like english common law being present in ours.

This is not the product of any enlightened thinking as you allude to…."No piece of the Earth stands alone. It is all part of one ecosystem. "

It comes directly from rule of kings and lords and the lords as being owner of the land. Any deed conveyed to a commoner is only in reference to acceptable use of the land. You are not paying for access but use. And other use may be allowed as well. The government as mentioned, supplants the lord in common parlance of modern times.

Use may be also in this manner as well..a oil company or a miner... or involve overt condemnation of land for governmental project or any project which is considered to advance the public good.. such is the basis for condemnation of property for power lines and in this specific likely is this..

One may challenge the common good in this specific certainly. But that is not the same as challenging the right to condemn for use a piece of privately owned land.
Condemnation itself is firmly present in american law.
 
 
+3 # Nominae 2015-01-22 19:45
Quoting ronnewmexico:
No that is not my experience......


Your experience notwithstanding , I am simply talking about *RECENT* U.S. Law.

I will go no further to expostulate, because it is all on the books and therefore easily referenced.

I will leave it to others to conjecture upon "what evil lurks in the hearts of men".
 
 
+1 # ronnewmexico 2015-01-22 22:32
In Nebraska mineral rights may stand independent of surface usage, and often are.
The deed for mineral extraction is separate from use of home, farming and such things. Nebraska tax law reflects this…

"Any owner of land from which a mineral interest has been severed or the owner of a mineral interest which has been severed may file an application with the assessor of the county where such land is located to separate for purposes of assessment and taxes such severed mineral interest from the surface interest and place them separately on the assessment and tax roll of the county.

I don't know when their mineral law specifics originated, but do not think this is in any way a recent invention.
The owner of the land may not even know the ownership of the mineral rights or lack of ownership.. unless they take the time to specifically identify that in the deed.
Most just assume they own the land they own the mineral righs which in oil country is likely not the case.

But that is remote from the condemnation of property for the public good clause which likely allowed for this in the article.
 
 
+1 # LandLady 2015-01-23 09:31
ronnewmexico and nominae are right about the importance of land rights. Unlike titles to man-made things, which originate with the producer, land titles are not absolute; did the Producer give the whole earth to Adam & Eve? All private land titles rest ultimately on force or fraud: the Norman Conquest; Trail of Tears and other Indian dispossessions of North America, etc. BUT we as people DO have EQUAL rights to USE the land, which we need for our very lives. Feudal kings represented The People when they gave out land titles, and in return feudal landowners had to do things like maintain private armies (knights)for the country's wars. That would be like today Exxon, Gulf Oil, owners of coal mines, timber lands, etc. paying for our entire military-indust rial complex, instead of its largely being foisted on working people and the poor. Eminent domain is another example of title to land resting ultimately with the public; and yes it should only be used for public projects. The real solution is to raise property taxes on land values and reduce/eliminat e them on buildings, incomes, sales, etc. Higher land taxes prevent speculative withholding of land, the bane of society. If New London, CT had taxed land values high enough,they would not have needed eminent domain just to get some development going with jobs for the area. All more fully explained in "Progress & Poverty" by Henry George.
 

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