Nebraska's highest court threw out a challenge today to a proposed route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, removing a major roadblock for the $7 billion project that Republicans have vowed to make a key part of their 2015 agenda in Congress. The lawsuit brought by landowners challenged a 2012 state law that allowed the governor to empower Canada-based TransCanada to force them to sell their property for the project. Four judges on the seven-member Nebraska Supreme Court said the landowners should have won the case, but because the lawsuit raised a constitutional question, a supermajority of five judges was needed to rule on the law.
The legal wrangling may not be over, however. Brian Jorde, an attorney for the landowners, said he would release a detailed briefing next week on other legal options in the case. The newly empowered Republican-led Congress is moving ahead on approving the project, with the House scheduled to vote today. The Senate is expected to finish the bill by the end of the month, setting up a showdown with President Obama—who has threatened a veto. The pipeline needs presidential approval because it would cross the US-Canada border. (Read more TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline stories.)