- The Washington Times
Friday, January 9, 2015

Pressure to finally approve or reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline is squarely on President Obama’s shoulders after a long-awaited court decision Friday upholding the project’s proposed route through Nebraska.

Environmentalists who vehemently oppose Keystone and a host of project supporters — including business, labor, lawmakers of both parties, the Canadian government and others — all said Friday that they now expect Mr. Obama, who has skirted a decision on the pipeline for six years, to make up his mind one way or the other.

“When you take a punch, you stand up and keep on fighting. We continue to stand with President Obama in his skepticism of the export pipeline and encourage him to reject Keystone XL now,” said Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, a leading pipeline opposition group. “The only decision that will bring peace of mind to landowners is watching the president use the power of the pen to stop this risky pipeline once and for all.”

Keystone backers used the resolution of the Nebraska case to argue the opposite — that Mr. Obama no longer has any reason for delay and should approve the pipeline immediately.

“President Obama is now out of excuses for blocking the Keystone pipeline and the thousands of American jobs it would create. Finally, it’s time to start building,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner.

In its ruling, the Nebraska Supreme Court determined that landowners who brought a lawsuit challenging Keystone’s proposed route did not have legal standing to do so. A lower court judge previously had invalidated the pipeline’s planned path, but Friday’s decision overturns that ruling.

“We vacate the district court’s judgment,” the Nebraska Supreme Court said in its opinion.

The case centered on whether Republican Gov. Dave Heineman and the state legislature overstepped their constitutional authority in 2011 when they implemented legislation giving the governor eminent domain and pipeline approval powers.

Those powers traditionally had rested with the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

Four judges determined the landowners have standing, while three judges said they do not. Five judges — a supermajority — were required to overturn the lower court’s decision. The decision essentially upholds the constitutionality of the law giving Mr. Heineman pipeline approval powers.

Mr. Obama had cited the case one key reason why he would veto federal legislation approving the pipeline. That legislation is expected to clear the House Friday and could reach the president’s desk next week.

With the Nebraska case resolved, Mr. Obama has lost one of his central arguments for vetoing the bill, and he is now coming under pressure not just from lawmakers on Capitol Hill but from international partners and traditional Democratic allies in organized labor.

“Our position on Keystone remains the same: we believe the project should be approved. It will create jobs for American and Canadian workers, it has the support of the Canadian and American people,” the Canadian government said in a statement. “Right now this is not a debate between Canada and the U.S., it’s a debate between the president and the American people, who are overwhelmingly supportive of the project.”

Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, called on Mr. Obama and Democrats in Congress to end the “shameful politics” they’ve used to block Keystone and finally approve the project.

On the other side of the debate, environmentalists and other opponents are putting their full faith in the president.

Keystone “would be a disaster for the climate by opening up expanded development of Canada’s dirty tar sands, and it would bring no significant economic benefit to the United States. It needs to be rejected. And it’s time for President Obama to deny this misguided project,” said Randy Thompson, the lead plaintiff in the Nebraska lawsuit.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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