Developments over the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline continued on Friday, after the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that a law granting Gov. Dave Heineman the power to approve the pipeline's route through the state could stand.

Meanwhile, a bill authorizing construction of the pipeline, H-3, cruised through the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, easily winning passage by a 266-153 vote. The tally included the votes of 28 Democrats.

In a 4-3 decision, Nebraska's high court said it expressed no opinion over the constitutionality of LB 1161, a law Heineman signed in 2012 that gave him the authority to bypass the state's Public Service Commission (PSC) and decide the pipeline's route (see Shale Daily, April 18, 2012). A district court ruled in the case Thompson v. Heineman that the law was unconstitutional because it divested the PSC of its regulatory powers.

Harry Weiss, an environmental and energy attorney with Philadelphia-based law firm Ballard Spahr LLP, called the Nebraska ruling “a procedural quirk” that takes the PSC out of deciding the route for Keystone XL.

"[But] that's one small hurdle compared to the larger hurdle of both the State Department’s review and President Obama’s veto power," Weiss told NGI’s Shale Daily on Friday.

"I can't pretend to speak for the State Department, [but] if that was an automatic condition, one would have thought the State Department decision would have been out today. Given the action by Congress and what the president has said, the real game right now is going to be played out in Congress, at least for the short term.

"It clearly removes an obstacle that could be used to justify further delay. The question is there other excuses. There may or may not be. Let's face it, this is a political struggle and has been for quite some time."


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