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Philip Residents Not Ready To Give Up On KXL Pipeline

Seth Tupper/SDPB
Rep. Dusty Johnson speaks Monday in Philip.


President Biden has revoked a permit for the Keystone XL crude-oil pipeline, but some people along the pipeline route want to revive it.  


That sentiment is common in Philip. U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, gathered about 20 local residents on Monday for a roundtable discussion at the Philip Ambulance Hall. 


Jeff Birkeland is CEO of West Central Electric. He said the rural cooperative stood to make $90 million in revenue providing electricity for Keystone XL pump stations during the first eight years of the pipeline’s operation. 


Birkeland said his rural cooperative has a tough time keeping up its infrastructure. He said almost three-fourths of the cooperative’s power poles date to the 1950s. 


“We are fighting and scraping to get by, and basically every time we have a rate increase, we're getting more money out of the same people,” Birkeland said. “We have no growth.” 


Some local businesses already invested money in new equipment, facilities or materials, anticipating a boost from pipeline construction. Rita O’Connell, of O’Connell Construction, said her company invested $100,000 to produce base-course materials for the pipeline. 


“It was such a shock to hear that this had been just wiped out,” O’Connell said. “It won’t kill us financially, but as everyone else said here, this community just really backed this – everybody got together and really backed this.” 


Rep. Johnson is supporting legislation to approve the pipeline project without a presidential permit. 

“You shouldn't be able to undo this kind of investment with a stroke of one pen, but I think a lot of Democrats in Congress are going to be loathe to go against their new president,” Johnson said. “I think we all understand that. But the merits of this issue should outweigh the political considerations.” 


Johnson brought fellow Republican U.S. Reps. Kelly Armstrong, of North Dakota, and Dan Newhouse, of Washington, to the roundtable. 


The pipeline would pass through western South Dakota on a 1,210-mile route from Canada to Nebraska. Opponents fear it would deepen America’s dependence on fossil fuels, slow the transition to cleaner energy and delay action on climate change. They also fear the pipeline could leak, polluting rivers and streams along the route.  


No opponents spoke at the Philip roundtable.