Eminent Domain Victory Could Be Short-Lived with More Nebraska Land Fights Ahead

Sept. 30, 2021, 3 p.m. ·

Pipe for the now-scrapped Keystone XL pipeline sits outside Dorchester, Nebraska (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

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Earlier this week, supporters of property rights in Nebraska celebrated what they called a victory after a major energy company gave up attempts to condemn private property along a proposed pipeline route. But property rights advocates say there are more fights ahead.

On Monday in Madison County District Court, a Canadian company, TC Energy, that used to be known as TransCanada, gave up its attempts to condemn private land along the proposed route of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a project that was scrapped in June. Jane Kleeb is the founder of Bold Nebraska, a group that supports private landowner rights and opposes the use of eminent domain unless it’s part of a public project. She said the next challenge is saving land that was already turned over to TC Energy from being used for other pipeline projects.

Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraka speaks to pipeline opponents in Albion, Neb. (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

“That’s exactly what some landowners in the path of Keystone XL who either got bullied and sold their land or sold their land willingly, are now facing, is TransCanada has the ability to transfer that land easement to another pipeline company, like these carbon pipelines that are now threatening Nebraska,” Kleeb said.

She said Nebraska lawmakers have been reluctant to step in over the years because of what she called the influence of big oil companies. She suggested one easy fix that would protect private landowners when projects like Keystone XL are scrapped.

“One of the things that the Public Service Commission could do right now is create a rule that says anytime a pipeline gets cancelled, rejected or is decommissioned, meaning its past its lifespan, that the land easements revert immediately back to the landowner,” Kleeb said.

Monday’s agreement only applies to a couple of landowners who were along the proposed pipeline route, but Kleeb hopes dozens of others who were in line to lose their land through eminent domain will reach similar agreements with the pipeline company.