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Landowners get chance to testify against pipeline in front of PUC

Taking the stand for the first time, landowners voiced concerns for safety and a drop in property value in front of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.

After a week of testimony and cross-examination, landowners took the stand Tuesday in Navigator CO2’s pipeline hearing.

State Rep.Karla Lems was the first landowner to testify. The Canton Republican was the prime sponsor of multiple pipeline-related bills last legislative session.

Lems’ bills were unsuccessful, but her push against pipelines continued into her testimony against Navigator’s pipeline. She said it is her duty to listen to the public.

“When I go to public hearings, and commission meetings, and all of these kinds of things, like I said before. Nobody’s in an uproar about natural gas, or water, or electric, we all understand we need those things," Lems said. "This is a different cat, if you will, and one of the big factors with this specifically is safety."    

Navigator has been hesitant in producing pipeline safety information to the public. Rick Bonander is a landowner and testified to the public’s need for information.

“Today, they just released their emergency response plan. Why can’t they release the plume studies? You know, if they got something to hide, they’ve got nothing to hide so tell us what it is. There’s anxiety here, we want to know what’s going on,” said Bonander.

Landowners presented a unified front to the PUC commissioners. They said having a pipeline on their property not only limits their use of that property but also decreases their home and property value.

Navigator attorneys said the landowners represented by council have not attempted to communicate their concerns directly.

PUC commissioners thanked all landowners for testifying and will continue to hear testimony throughout the week.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.