By Aruna Viswanatha and Patrick Rucker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday approved the route for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, reversing a lower court that had blocked the proposal and clearing the way for a U.S. State Department ruling on the plan.
The court said it was divided and could not reach a substantive decision, leaving in place legislation that favored TransCanada Corp and its claim to build a crude oil pipeline across the state.
"(B)ecause there are not five judges of this court voting on the constitutionality of (the legislation), the legislation must stand by default," the court said in its ruling.
The court's decision allows the U.S. State Department to decide whether the pipeline meant to carry Canadian oil sands fuel would be in the national interest, a necessary step for the cross-border energy project.
Environmentalists oppose Keystone since it could help expand oil sands development and President Barack Obama has said he will weigh whether the project might worsen climate change.
Officials have said they could not test whether the project is in the national interest before the Nebraska Supreme Court rules and Friday's decision cleared the way for that.
(Editing by Alden Bentley)