As Landowners Sue the Keystone XL Developer, It Tries to Buy Off Others

Illustration for article titled As Landowners Sue the Keystone XL Developer, It Tries to Buy Off Others
Photo: AP

The past six years have been intense for Art Tanderup. The 66-year-old farmer’s property in Neligh, Nebraska, sits directly in the path of the Keystone XL Pipeline. He’s opposed the 1,179-mile long proposed crude oil pipeline since 2012, when developer TransCanada first approached him and his wife, Helen, about purchasing an easement on their land.


The company offered them around $22,000, Tanderup told Earther over the phone. It wasn’t nearly enough.

“Early on, we said, ‘No we don’t want this, and you can offer us a million, $5 million, and we aren’t going to take it,’” Tanderp told Earther.

Now, TransCanada plans to reach out to landowners along a new alternative route the Nebraska Public Service Commission approved for the pipeline in November, according to The Associated Press. The pipeline project—killed by former President Barack Obama in 2015 and resurrected by President Donald Trump last year—was originally slated to run along a so-called “preferred” route, but the state commission decided the alternative route was more beneficial late last year. Both routes include parts of Tanderup’s property.

The energy company will now begin to survey lands along the new route in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana to secure easements. TransCanada hopes to begin construction by early 2019, according to the AP.

All this is despite ongoing litigation with landowners like Tanderup. He’s one of about 60 plaintiffs suing the company to keep his land from being handed over to TransCanada via eminent domain. Similar land-rights litigation has been hitting the company for some time, with seven landowners filing a lawsuit back in 2015, too.

The farmer-turned-activist is trying to help his neighbors along the pipeline’s new route understand its potential impacts, from decreased property value to damage to croplands and the nearby Ogallala Aquifer should there be a spill. While Tanderup and others, including environmental groups like Bold Nebraska, attempt to build public awareness, they’re also escalating the issue in court.


Tanderup and the other 60-odd landowners involved in his lawsuit filed a legal brief Monday, stating that the commission shouldn’t have approved this new route at all, reports The Omaha World-Herald Bureau. Since it isn’t the route TransCanada initially sought approval of, the new route should restart the commission’s review, they argue.

“TransCanada cannot keep what it did not seek,” lawyers David Domina and Brian Jorde said, per the local paper.


This lawsuit’s next stop is the Supreme Court, which will ultimately decide its fate. It represents the project’s biggest hold-up right now, as the court won’t begin hearing oral arguments until the fall.

In the meantime, Tanderup will continue to focus on taking care of his land and his community.


“[TransCanada is] just trying to catch people’s hunger for money without thinking about what are the implications of what’s going on here,” he says. “What does this really mean for the landowner? For the climate?”

Correction 4/17/18 3:36 p.m.: The article has been corrected to remove a piece of information saying TransCanada is also involved with the TransMountain Pipeline. That pipeline is run by Kinder Morgan. The “Trans” here and there confused us, which was foolish. Apologies and thanks, readers, for pointing it out.


Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.



Transcanada does not own or have a stake in the Transmountain Pipeline in Canada. That pipeline is owned by Kinder Morgan.