TransCanada, the company seeking to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, said Tuesday it has filed papers in Nebraska seeking to acquire the final 12 percent of easements from holdout landowners along the pipeline path.
The company is seeking to use eminent domain to compel reluctant property owners to sell easements for the use of their land. "Despite the filings, TransCanada will continue to work to acquire voluntary easement agreements," Keystone projects land manager Andrew Craig said in a statement. "If we are unable to come to agreement, a panel of local appraisers appointed by the county court will recommend a value for compensation."
TransCanada has already reached deals to acquire easements from most landowners along the pipeline route. Under the easements, landowners would continue to own the property, but TransCanada acquires legal rights to construct, operate and maintain the pipeline through the land. Craig described eminent domain as "a last resort." The company said it has made "numerous offers to negotiate generous agreements with all landowners."
TransCanada has encountered opposition from some Nebraska farmers and ranchers, who say they won't sell easements to the company at any price. A group of landowners filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a law that allowed the governor to sign off on the route. The landowners have argued that the company should not be allowed to use eminent domain to obtain the use of land against owners' wishes.
Earlier this month, the Nebraska Supreme Court cleared the way for the pipeline to go forward in the state, though the ruling left some ambiguity about whether another challenge to the route could be successful. While four of the seven judges agreed that the state law was unconstitutional, a supermajority of five was needed to throw it out.
“This is just another bullying move by the foreign corporation that swears they are going to be a good neighbor," landowner Jim Tarnick said in a statement Tuesday.