Victoria Wicks

SDPB Freelance Reporter/Producer

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007. She has in the past been a newspaper reporter, and she spent about 14 years advocating for crime victims in Rapid City and Aberdeen. Vicky is also a creative writer; several of her short stories have been published, one of them in an anthology titled Fishing for Chickens: Short Stories about Rural Youth. In addition, Vicky is a visual artist, creating pottery, watercolors, oil and acrylic paintings, and photographs. She holds a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of South Dakota.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The Keystone XL pipeline hit a snag earlier this year when its water-crossing permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was vacated by a Montana federal judge.

The Corps asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency lifting of that order, but the high court left it in place.

The fast-track permit was a problem because it did not require extensive environmental review. Now TC Energy has applied to the Corps, as well as to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, for permits that will undergo public scrutiny.

BP

The petroleum company BP does not have to reimburse a state environmental cleanup fund. The South Dakota Supreme Court made that opinion public on Thursday, Aug. 13.

Over 12 years, the state's Petroleum Release Compensation Fund reimbursed BP more than $3 million for cleanup of leaks from underground tanks at South Dakota gas stations.

A few years later, the state asked for it back.

Victoria Wicks has more of this story for SDPB.

Chris Jordan-Bloch, Earthjustice

Last month a federal judge ordered that the Dakota Access pipeline should be shut down and drained by Aug. 5.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers quickly appealed, and the D.C. Court of Appeals stayed the order.

Now the appeals court has affirmed that the pipeline does not have to be shut down immediately, but it lets stand the lower court's finding that the Corps violated federal law when it failed to complete an environmental impact study.

Victoria Wicks has this story for SDPB.

SD Department of Corrections

An inmate who committed murder at the age of 17 has been denied a shorter prison sentence.

Carlos Quevedo stabbed a Rapid City convenience store clerk to death during a robbery in January 2017.

He appealed his 90-year sentence to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

In an opinion made public on Thursday, July 23, the high court upheld the sentence that allows Quevedo a chance at parole when he's 62.

Victoria Wicks has this report for South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

Listen to the story here:

Montana Federal Court briefs

Last week two pipelines hit major snags in federal courts. This week their stories continue as federal courts in the District of Columbia and Montana considered new filings on Tuesday, July 14. Victoria Wicks has this update for South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

Sierra Club

The United States Supreme Court has refused to reinstate water crossing permits for the Keystone XL pipeline. That decision puts construction on hold until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes a thorough environmental impact study of the pipeline project.

A Sierra Club lawyer says the Corps should have done that assessment years ago.

Victoria Wicks has more of the story for SDPB.

Cassi Alexander, NPR

Tribes and environmentalists are celebrating a federal ruling that the Dakota Access Pipeline must be shut down by Aug. 5. That order came out of a District of Columbia federal court on Monday, July 6. In briefs, DAPL supporters laid out the economic hardships of shutting down almost 1,200 miles of pipe. But an attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says protecting water outweighs profit. Victoria Wicks has this story for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. Listen here:

Thirty-five Chinese nationals who lost millions when the EB-5 immigrant investment program went bankrupt can't sue South Dakota state agencies.

That's the decision of the South Dakota Supreme Court, issued Thursday, June 25.

A lower court dismissed the lawsuit because state agencies involved in running the investment program did not waive sovereign immunity.

The high court affirms that decision.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has more.

Natural Resources Defense Council

A Montana federal court order vacating certain water crossing permits for oil and gas pipelines will stand for now.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a request from the Trump administration, TC Energy, and other energy companies to lift the judge's order pending appeal.

An attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council says that ruling effectively halts Keystone XL pipeline construction.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports.

A Montana federal court order that vacated water crossing permits for oil and gas pipelines will stand for now. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a request from the Trump administration, TC Energy, and other energy companies to lift the judge's order pending appeal.

As a result, the Keystone XL pipeline is not permitted to cross 688 bodies of water on its route through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, at least until the appeal has played out.

Courtesy of Peter Larson

A research article published in April 2019 has created seismic waves in the study of paleontology.

At a dig in southwestern North Dakota known as the Tanis site, paleontologists found evidence of an inland surge of water that encased animals and plants in mud minutes to hours after an impact.

Researchers have attributed this snapshot of mass death to the Chicxulub asteroid that ended the Cretaceous period in a heartbeat.

A Montana judge's decision to vacate water permits for the Keystone XL pipeline still stands for now. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied an immediate administrative stay pending appeal of the Montana ruling. But the appeals court has agreed to expedite the issue.

Preconstruction of the Keystone XL pipeline had already started when Montana Federal Judge Brian Morris put a stop to water crossings. He ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the Endangered Species Act by not adequately considering potential harm to listed species or habitat.

SD Unified Judicial System

A Texas billionaire's divorce case is shining light on South Dakota's trust industry.

Ed Bosarge is divorcing his wife of 30 years, and because of South Dakota's trust laws, he seems to have a good shot at leaving her with nothing.

According to news reports, Bosarge transferred assets into a series of trusts, including in South Dakota, in his name alone, and because of the state's strict privacy laws, his wife can't get information.

That case is stuck in Texas court so far. But it might eventually reach South Dakota.

Montana Federal Court

Last month a Montana federal judge shook up the infrastructure industry when he vacated a widely used U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit. This month the judge amended his order to rein in its reach. Now Nationwide Permit 12, or NWP 12, can be used for installation of non-pipeline projects such as cable, electric, and internet. But the judge left in place an injunction against using the permit for building oil and gas pipelines. SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report.

Montana Federal Court

The Keystone XL pipeline now crosses the border between Alberta and Montana. TransCanada installed an 80-foot pipe in the middle of April, with completion of more than a mile of pipe planned. But with permits in question and lawsuits still going, the rest of construction is done piecemeal. One small construction site is near Philip, where workers are unloading pipe and build a worker camp. SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report.

SD Department of Corrections

Cole Patrick Taylor was convicted of rape by a Lawrence County jury one year ago this month. Now he appeals his conviction to the South Dakota Supreme Court, who heard oral arguments on Wednesday, April 22.

Taylor says the trial judge should not have allowed testimony from other women who told the jury Taylor had raped them also.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report.

photo courtesy of Lilias Jarding

The headline for the coronavirus is that millions have tested positive and thousands have died. Global economies are failing; millions are out of work. And isolation takes a mental and physical toll on people who are quarantined and lonely.

SD Department of Corrections

An Aberdeen man found guilty of killing his girlfriend and setting fire to her apartment has appealed his conviction.

The South Dakota Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday, April 21, by video conference.

Jose Rodriguez says the trial judge erred when he considered testimony from an unavailable witness.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this story.

U.S. District Court Montana

A pivotal hearing in the ongoing Keystone XL saga was conducted Thursday, April 16, in Montana federal court.

Lawyers for President Donald Trump say he has inherent power as commander in chief to issue a permit unilaterally.

Lawyers for tribes and environmentalists say Congress has power over foreign commerce, and the president violated standing presidential orders when he issued a new permit in 2019.

All parties appeared remotely in response to COVID-19 restrictions.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports.

Sierra Club

A Montana federal judge has invalidated a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

In an order handed down Wednesday, April 15, Judge Brian Morris says a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers bypassed necessary environmental reviews.

The order says TC Energy, formerly TransCanada, cannot build across waterways along the pipeline route until the Corps does more work on the permit.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report.

Victoria Wicks

Rapid Creek in the Black Hills has been named one of the most endangered rivers in the United States. The designation comes from American Rivers, a conservation group headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The organization says gold mining and exploration threaten this South Dakota river that supplies drinking water for around 90,000 people.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this story.

The South Dakota Supreme Court continues to operate during the pandemic shutdown. One exception is that the court rescheduled March oral arguments, pushing them to the April term.

Later this month, justices will hear oral arguments telephonically, with live audio broadcast online as it always is.

The court has continued to release its opinions to the public every Thursday.

On Thursday, April 9, the Supreme Court released three opinions, and SDPB's Victoria Wicks has more on those.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has asked a Montana federal judge to put an emergency stop to the Keystone XL pipeline.

The South Dakota tribe and Montana's Fort Belknap Indian Community filed a request for a temporary restraining order on Friday, April 3.

The tribes say it's dangerous to bring construction workers to rural areas while the COVID-19 pandemic is active.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report.

Listen to audio for the whole story.

Cassi Alexandra for NPR

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been ordered to complete a meaningful environmental impact study on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

A federal judge in the D.C. district issued that order on Wednesday, March 25, and will consider whether to shut the pipeline down until the study is done.

A lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says it's about time.

Listen to audio for the rest of the story.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report.

According to news reports, TC Energy plans to start preconstruction of Keystone XL pipeline in mid to late March. That's at least two weeks before a Montana federal judge will hear arguments from tribes and environmentalists asking for a preliminary injunction.

TC's activities include bringing in crews to mow and grade the sites of pipe yards in Montana at the point of crossing the U.S.-Canada border.

A lawyer for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Fort Belknap Indian Community says TC is jumping the gun.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports.

SD Legislative Research Council

This year's legislature is sending two riot boosting bills to the Governor for her signature.

The first one, House Bill 1117, was introduced early in the session and passed out of both chambers last week.

After that bill passed, the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee drafted an amendment to it and put the new language into a separate bill, House Bill 1199. That amendment cleared the full Senate on Monday, March 9.

Part of the amendment eliminates the term "riot boosting."

SDPB's Victoria Wicks has this report.

SD Legislative Research Council

This year South Dakota's "riot boosting" bill was introduced early in the session, unlike last year. And by all appearances, House Bill 1117 has completed the last leg of its journey to the Governor's desk. The state Senate overwhelmingly voted Thursday, March 5, to pass it. But earlier in the day, a Senate committee passed Riot Boosting Part Two, starting that bill on a new journey. Now the legislature will have to consider that new bill in both houses by the end of the day Monday, which is the last day for bills to pass both chambers.

SD Legislative Research Council

South Dakota's critical infrastructure bill passed the House Commerce and Energy Committee on Wednesday, March 4. Senate Bill 151 is modeled after similar legislation in other states. It offers special protections to public utilities, including pipelines and pipe yards. Proponents say the threat of felony charges lets potential vandals know the state takes its utilities seriously. Opponents agree, except for one thing: they say the bill unconstitutionally stifles protest of the Keystone XL pipeline. SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports.

Indigenous Environmental Network

This year's riot boosting bill got a thorough hearing at a special evening meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, March 3. But after hearing close to two hours of testimony from opponents, committee members still voted 6-1 to pass the bill along to the full Senate for floor debate.

The state says this law fixes problems that were deemed unconstitutional in last year's version. Opponents say it still restricts speech and assembly through intimidation.

SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports.

Native American Rights Fund

In another round of briefings in Montana federal court, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe says the Keystone XL pipeline route crosses land where the tribe holds mineral and surface rights. And it says TC Energy's own maps show that encroachment. But the Department of Justice says the presidential permit doesn't apply to the pipeline as a whole, so any encroachment is the problem of state and local authorities. SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports.

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