A ruling by the Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday removes an obstacle for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline—a decision, environmental groups say, that means President Obama can and must exercise his authority to fully reject the pipeline.
Nebraska landowners had challenged the constitutionality of a state law, LB 1161 (pdf), which allowed Gov. Dave Heineman to approve TransCanada's tar sands pipeline route. The victory a lower court dealt the pipeline opponents in February was reversed with Friday's high court decision (pdf). Though four of the seven justices sided with landowners, a fifth was needed by state law when constitutional issues are raised.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that Obama would veto legislation that forced the approval of Keystone XL, and said that the Nebraska legal battle was "impeding a final conclusion about this pipeline." He added, "Once that is resolved, that should speed the completion of the evaluation of that project."
Environmental groups charge that the final conclusion should be clear to Obama: the pipeline must be rejected.
"No matter the route, as long as the pipeline is carrying tar sands oil it is a global warming disaster and fails the President’s climate test," stated 350.org Executive Director May Boeve.
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Echoing Boeve, Steve Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International, stated: "While the route for Keystone XL may have been approved on a technicality, passing the climate test is a much higher bar. Even the State Department’s own report was clear that in the event of low oil prices, Keystone would spur significant upstream production and thus significant additional carbon pollution."
Jane Kleeb of grassroots organization Bold Nebraska said that, despite the court ruling, her group was not about to give up. "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. 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," she said.
Hours after the Nebraska court ruling, the House voted 266-153 to approve the pipeline. Twenty-eight Democrats joined Republicans to pass the measure, but it still failed to get enough votes to be veto-proof. A debate on the pipeline heads to the Senate next week.
Ahead of the vote, Boeve called it "a reminder that oily politicians are going to keep pushing Keystone XL as long as the fossil fuel industry is paying the bills and the pipeline is still on the table."
"It’s time for President Obama to build on his veto threat and reject Keystone XL outright," she continued.