Keystone XL Slowly Pieces Itself Together

Permits, approvals, and lawsuits sure do take up a lot of time. As such, the story of TransCanada's (NYS: TRP) Keystone XL pipeline continues to develop at a painstakingly slow pace. The company continues to slog along, however, making progress bit by bit.

Taking a new path
TransCanada officially submitted a revised route for the portion of its Keystone XL pipeline that cuts through Nebraska. Fools may recall the original path through Nebraska caused some controversy because it traversed sensitive ecological areas like the Sandhills region, and the Ogallala aquifer.

Officially submitting the new route to Nebraska means that a potentially long approval process begins again. The plan must be accepted or rejected by Nebraska's governor, Dave Heineman, who in turn will pass his decision along to the State Department, which is also conducting its own environmental assessment of the pipeline.

TransCanada hopes to have the new route approved by early next year, allowing the company to begin construction on the northern leg and putting the section into service by early 2015 at the latest. As we have seen with TransCanada's first attempt to gain approval, and the tribulations of its Canadian peerEnbridge (NYS: ENB) , these projects and their timelines are no longer sure bets.

Eminent domain
While TransCanada was resubmitting plans for Keystone's northern leg, the southern leg was battling a lawsuit in Texas.

A county judge ruled in favor of the company on Wednesday, allowing it to take over 50 feet of private land to build the Keystone XL. The judge cited eminent domain, the rule stipulating that a company can take over private land if the use serves public interest.

The decision may well affect other pipeline companies, as landowners and activists continue to address their grievances in court. That being said, there is a another angle to take, as only "common carriers" can use eminent domain in Texas, and there is some question as to whether the TransCanada project fits that bill. Expect at least an appeal, if not additional lawsuits.

Foolish takeaway
All of the media attention surrounding the Keystone project has made it difficult over the past year to remember that TransCanada actually owns and operates other pipelines. In fact, TransCanada really isn't having a great year. Between the Keystone debacle, a rough second quarter, and its top asset in dire straits, the company is one of the weakest-performing midstream giants year to date. Keeping a close eye on the other aspects of TransCanada's business will clue investors in on a possible turn around, which is why I encourage monitoring the company with My Watchlist.

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