The Nebraska Public Service Commission should clarify its decision on the Keystone XL pipeline in order to head off potential appeals by opponents, a lawyer for pipeline builder TransCanada told the commission Tuesday.

Commissioners approved the pipeline last month, but not the company's preferred route through Nebraska.

In choosing an alternative route instead, opponents argue the commission overstepped its jurisdiction and deprived landowners and other groups of due process.

James Powers of Omaha, attorney for TransCanada, told commissioners Tuesday they could "erase" those concerns by allowing the company to file an amended application for the alternative route, which would enable the commission to issue a new final order.

Such an order could address any issues before they reach the courts in the form of a legal appeal, Powers said: "The time to resolve it is now."

Powers made his pitch during an hourlong hearing at the Public Service Commission's downtown Lincoln office.

Attorneys for groups opposing the pipeline — landowners, environmental groups and Native American tribes — were allowed to argue against TransCanada's request.

David Domina, an Omaha lawyer representing many opposing landowners, said TransCanada is asking the commission to "hop over" state law and language in the company's own application with the new request.

Nebraska law only allows the commission to consider a single route at a time, and TransCanada's application only sought approval of the company's preferred route, Domina said. Further, his clients were denied access to evidence related to the alternative route, and people along that route didn't receive proper notice that their land might be involved.

"That's a lot of hopping," Domina said. "I don't want to be a kangaroo. And I don't want anybody else in this room to be a kangaroo, either."

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TransCanada's 275-mile preferred route was the focus of a court-style hearing in August, but on Nov. 20, the commission opted for a slightly longer route known as the "mainline alternative."

That route would cut farther east, then run parallel with the existing Keystone pipeline for about 95 miles. It would cross 11 counties: Keya Paha, Boyd, Holt, Antelope, Madison, Stanton, Colfax, Butler, Seward, Saline and Jefferson.

The pipeline would move Canadian oil bound for the U.S. Gulf Coast from Hardisty, Alberta, to a terminus in Steele City, Nebraska. 

The commission's five elected members are expected to respond to TransCanda's request Dec. 19.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7234 or zpluhacek@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @zachami.

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