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UToledo law professor says Keystone pipeline gives special treatment, sets dangerous precedent

The Keystone XL Pipeline is politically controversial, but the more pressing concern missing from the ongoing debate is how the legislation subverts the important constitutional principle of separation of powers, according to a University of Toledo law expert.

The bill passed by the House approving the pipeline to connect Canadian crude oil to existing pipelines in the United States is “special legislation” because it singles out an individual company for special treatment that is not available to the rest of the population, said Evan C. Zoldan, UT assistant professor of law.

The Keystone legislation permits TransCanada Keystone Pipeline L.P. to construct and operate the pipeline simply by submitting an application without having to comply with environmental or other applicable laws that would apply to any other person or company.

By passing a law that gives a benefit to a single company, Zoldan said, Congress impinges on the constitutional principle of separation of powers by assuming the power to apply the law in derogation of the responsibilities of the executive branch.

“Although advocates of the pipeline may discount the separation of powers concerns that are raised by the Keystone legislation, they do so at their peril,” he said. “A healthy respect for the prerogatives of the different branches of government helps maintain a properly functioning government. The willingness of the House to pass special legislation is both a symptom of governmental dysfunction and cause of concern for the future.

“As the Senate considers the Keystone legislation in the coming weeks, it should consider carefully whether a short-term win is worth the attendant degradation of the important constitutional principle of separation of powers.”

Contact Meghan Cunningham, assistant director for media relations, at 419.530.2410 or to arrange an interview with Zoldan.


is UT's Director of University Communications. Contact her at 419.530.2410 or
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