In this Nov. 3, 2015, photo, the Keystone Steele City pumping station, into which the planned Keystone XL pipeline is to connect, is seen in Steele City, Nebraska.

LINCOLN — A Nebraska regulatory agency violated the law when it approved an alternative route for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a lawyer for landowners opposed to the project said this week in a legal filing with the State Supreme Court.

Omaha attorney David Domina said the project developer sought approval for a single preferred path for the project. Instead, the Public Service Commission voted 3-2 to approve an alternative route, which was not the subject of testimony submitted to the commission before the vote.

“The governing statute permits one application for one route at a time, not a smorgasbord from which the PSC can choose,” Domina wrote in the brief submitted to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Jay Bartel, an assistant state attorney general defending the PSC, has argued that the commission’s approval last year of the “mainline alternative route” complied with state law and was in the public interest.

Domina argued that the Keystone XL threatens the public interest as potential spills from the underground pipeline would contaminate soil and possibly groundwater. He also said it’s unconstitutional for the state to give a private corporation, TransCanada, the authority to use eminent domain to obtain private land for the route.

In all, he listed 12 errors in the attorney general’s defense of the PSC vote that Domina argued require the court to order reversal. The court is expected to rule on the case later this year.

The 36-inch -diameter pipeline is designed to carry about 830,000 barrels of oil a day from the tar sands region of Canada to oil refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast set up to handle the thicker crude. About 275 miles of the pipeline would run through Nebraska.

Joe Duggan works in The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where he helps cover state government, the Legislature, the state Supreme Court, southeast Nebraska and Lincoln. Follow him on Twitter @JoeDugganOWH. Phone: 402-473-9587

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Welcome to the discussion.

Please keep it clean, turn off CAPS LOCK and don't threaten anyone. Be truthful, nice and proactive. And share with us - we love to hear eyewitness accounts.

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