Keystone XL: Sixth Circuit Upholds PUC Certification

Jun 19, 2017

At the March 2017 hearing, Sixth Circuit Judge John Brown listens to testimony. In foreground is attorney Peter Capossela.
Credit Victoria Wicks

TransCanada has successfully fended off another challenge to the Keystone XL pipeline.

In a decision filed Monday, June 19, Sixth Circuit Judge John Brown determined that the SD Public Utilities Commission acted appropriately when it accepted TransCanada's assertions that the pipeline can still be built safely.

The PUC issued a permit in 2009, but TransCanada failed to construct the pipeline within four years. The company then had to certify that it can still comply with conditions set in the permit.

In a hearing earlier this year, attorney Peter Capossela argued that TransCanada should have to go back to square one after receiving permission from the U.S. State Department to build the pipeline.

Peter Capossela on the grounds of the Hughes County Courthouse before the March 2017 hearing.
Credit Victoria Wicks

"If TransCanada succeeds in obtaining a State Department permit, there's nothing to prevent them from going back to the PUC and reapplying for a new South Dakota permit if they want Keystone XL to cross this state," Capossela told Judge Brown at the March 2017 hearing. "That's what should happen here. That makes sense. The existing permit is seven years old. The environmental data that was assessed by the agency in granting that permit is ten years older or more."

Judge Brown rejected that argument and upheld the PUC's decision to allow the pipeline to proceed without a new permit.

The appeal was filed by environmentalists, tribes, and landowners, who say the pipeline offers hazards to water quality, roads, and the climate.

UPDATED VERSION -- ADDED INFORMATION

Robin Martinez, second from left, represents Dakota Rural Action in that organization's fight against Keystone XL pipeline. Here, he stands outside the Hughes County Courthouse before the March hearing begins.
Credit Victoria Wicks

A state judge has upheld the continuation of a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sixth Circuit Judge John Brown has ruled that the PUC acted appropriately. Brown heard arguments in March from proponents and opponents.

The PUC held an administrative hearing in the summer of 2015 and afterward accepted TransCanada's assertions that the pipeline can still comply with conditions set in its 2009 permit.

Appellants say the pipeline offers hazards to water quality, roads, and the climate.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports.