South Dakota's PUC chairwoman says the Nebraska Public Service Commission is bound by state law, as are the public utility commissions in all states. And so she says the Nebraska PSC had to make its decision to permit the Keystone XL pipeline based on the evidence they received.
Kristie Fiegen says commissions have to interpret state law and apply that to the evidence and filings.
"The evidentiary hearing and record are key," she says. "It has to be in the evidence and in the record for them to apply that to state law. If it's not in the evidence and not in the record, then they can't apply that to the state law."
Fiegen notes that the evidence in these hearings can be extensive, as much as fifty thousand pages.
Fiegen is limited in her ability to comment on South Dakota's dealings with TransCanada. The PUC's permit for Keystone XL to cross this state is under appeal at the state Supreme Court.
She says as part of the permitting process, the South Dakota PUC takes information on safety issues. But she notes that the oil spill near Amherst is under the jurisdiction of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.