LINCOLN, Nebraska (AP) — A Nebraska judge on Wednesday struck down a law that allowed the Keystone XL oil pipeline to proceed through the state, a victory for opponents who have tried to block the project to carry oil from Canada to Texas refineries.
Keystone is critical to Canada, which needs more infrastructure to export its growing oil sands production, and the ruling could cause more delays in finishing the pipeline. Canada's province of Alberta has the world's third largest oil reserves, with 170 billion barrels of proven reserves.
A spokesman for TransCanada, the Calgary-based developer of the pipeline, said "We are disappointed and disagree with the decision."
"We will now analyze the judgment and decide what next steps may be taken," TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said. "TransCanada continues to believe strongly in Keystone XL and the benefits it would provide to Americans - thousands of jobs and a secure supply of crude oil from a trusted neighbor in Canada."
In Nebraska, Lancaster County Judge Stephanie Stacy issued a ruling that invalidated Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman's approval of the route.
Stacy agreed with opponents' arguments that law passed in 2011 improperly delegated the decision-making power to Heineman to give the company eminent domain powers within the state. Stacy said the decision should have been made by the Nebraska Public Service Commission, which regulates pipelines and other utilities.
The lawsuit was filed by three Nebraska landowners who oppose the pipeline.
"Under the Court's ruling, TransCanada has no approved route in Nebraska," Dave Domina, the landowners' attorney, said in a statement. "TransCanada is not authorized to condemn the property against Nebraska landowners. The pipeline project is at standstill in this state."
Domina said the ruling means that the governor's office has no role to play in the pipeline, and decisions within the state must be made by the Public Service Commission. The decision on a federal permit still rests with President Barack Obama.
Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said it would be difficult to comment on the ruling because the Canadian government doesn't yet have the details. He said, however, that the pipeline will create thousands of jobs and noted the US State Department has concluded it is a project that is in the interest of both countries.
A report released earlier this month by the U.S. State Department cited no major environmental objections to the 1,179-mile (1,900 kilometer) pipeline, which would carry oil through to a hub in Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to get the oil to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Pipeline supporters say it will create thousands of jobs and move the U.S. toward North American energy independence.
Foes say the pipeline would carry "dirty oil" that contributes to global warming. The State Department report says oil derived from tar sands in Alberta generates about 17 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than traditional crude. But the report makes clear that other methods of transporting the oil — including rail, trucks and barges — would release more greenhouse gases than the pipeline.
Associated Press writers Josh Funk in Omaha, Nebraska, and Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.
Original headline: Nebraska law that allowed Keystone XL struck down
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