Thanks to a bizarre provision of their state Constitution, the minority ruled today at the Nebraska Supreme Court.
In a split decision by the state Supremes on Friday, the court vacated a lower state court ruling that had found the approval process for a new, revised route for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to be in violation of the state constitution. Although a 4 to 3 majority of the court's jurists found the law in question to be unconstitutional, a state requirement that constitutionality be determined by a super-majority means that the lower court ruling is struck down. The state legislation allowing the revised route "must stand by default," according to the ruling [PDF].
The new decision clears the way for President Obama to offer final approval or rejection of the pipeline, which is set to ship dirty tar sands oil from Canada across the continental U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico for ultimate export overseas. The future for the pipeline, however, is still unclear.
The Nebraska Supreme Court did not approve the Keystone XL pipeline itself, but rather addressed whether an attempt to revise the pipeline's route to avoid an environmentally-sensitive region in Nebraska was legal under the state's constitution, Climate Progress reports.
Simply put, the Nebraska ruling narrowly focused on the question of process. Four of the seven state Supreme Court justices agreed with the lower court that state legislation allowing TransCanada, the foreign company behind the pipeline, the option to essentially select which state entity would approve its revised route, was unconstitutional.
But Nebraska's state constitution requires questions of constitutionality to be decided by a super-majority of 5 votes. Therefore, even though a 4 to 3 majority of the justices agreed with the lower court ruling that the approval process for the revised route was unconstitutional, the approval is nonetheless allowed to stand on what is, essentially, a legal technicality.
The Nebraska Supreme Court ruling moves the fight back to Washington, DC, where Republicans (and some Democrats) have long pressured President Obama to approve the massive new pipeline, which critics regard as a serious threat to the environment, with impacts on groundwater supplies and global warming...