Keystone XL pipeline hearings before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission will go forward as scheduled in early May. Pipeline opponents asked the PUC Tuesday to delay hearings until after a presidential permit is granted or denied. But commissioners say they have an obligation to give TransCanada a timely hearing in South Dakota.
Opponents to the Keystone XL pipeline told Public Utilities Commissioners Tuesday morning that it’s a waste of time to go through the permitting process in South Dakota at this time. TransCanada is still waiting for the U.S. State Department to decide whether to issue a presidential permit to allow the pipeline to cross the border into the United States. There are also legal snags in Canada and Nebraska.
Commissioner Gary Hanson says South Dakota can’t wait for other governments to act before the PUC does what it’s legally obligated to do. But he does express frustration with the Obama administration’s lack of action.
“It’s been six years that they’ve had an opportunity, and yes, it could waste a lot of our time and a lot of our money going through this process, but we have a responsibility again to go through the process,” he says. “I’ll be very disappointed and aggravated if the federal government chooses to make a decision a year from now or two years from now and they decide not to allow it to cross the border. I won’t be disappointed for Keystone. I’ll be disappointed for all the trouble that all of you folks and the state has gone through in the process.”
In 2010, the PUC gave TransCanada a permit to cross South Dakota. That permit required that the pipeline be built within four years. Now the PUC is holding hearings May 5-8 in Pierre to validate that permit.
On Tuesday the PUC also declined to appoint a special master to help sort out thousands of pages of motions and requests for discovery. Commissioners say even though that appointment would make their jobs easier, voters elected them to sort out the issues.