Keystone XL Pipeline

The Dakota Political Junkies discuss this week's South Dakota headlines. Denise Ross is an editor with Black Hills Knowledge Network/South Dakota Dashboard. Roger Whittle is managing editor of the Watertown Public Opinion. Today's conversation highlights the impact of President Obama's executive order to expand background checks on gun purchases.

Ross and Whittle also weigh in on the continuing Keystone XL Pipeline debate, what voters have to say on the subject of a wheel tax in Pennington County, and why Democrats are suffering in South Dakota.

Victoria Wicks file photo

If a presidential permit becomes available for the Keystone XL pipeline after the next election, it has the go-ahead to pass through western South Dakota. The state Public Utilities Commission, on Tuesday, Jan. 5, accepted TransCanada's certification of its ability to meet conditions outlined in the original permit granted in 2010. Commission Chairman Chris Nelson explained his thought processes and the legal reasons for the validation.

More of the story:

Victoria Wicks file photo

Even though the White House has killed the Keystone XL pipeline project, the permit in South Dakota is still alive. On Tuesday, Dec. 22, the state Public Utilities Commission denied a request from pipeline opponents to revoke the construction permit issued in 2010 and to stop deliberations on recertification of the project.

Interveners argue that a condition of the South Dakota permit is federal approval, and on Nov. 6, the White House refused to give that approval.

Dakota Digest for November 6, 2015

Nov 6, 2015
PBS

On this week’s edition of the Dakota Digest podcast, President Barack Obama has rejected a permit that would allow the Keystone Pipeline to cross the Canadian Border. Also on this week’s episode, the high school football semi-final round is this weekend and the US House of Representatives passed a transportation bill.

The Canadian company that seeks to build the Keystone XL pipeline asked the State Department to suspend its review of the project.  The request comes amid growing speculation that President Obama would reject the application before leaving office.  TransCanada Corporation asked for a pause in the review process while the Nebraska Public Service Commission approves the pipeline route through that state, something the company resisted in the past.

There are several sides to the issue. 

Victoria Wicks file photo

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has stricken parts of a witness's testimony and exhibits in the application process for the Keystone XL pipeline. That action took place Thursday, Oct. 29, at the PUC's regular meeting. Cindy Myers is a registered nurse who says she followed PUC's instructions to prepare her testimony. But TransCanada attorney William Taylor says Myers violated rules of evidence. SDPB's Victoria Wicks reports.

Photo courtesy of Faith Spotted Eagle

If the Keystone XL pipeline is built, a TransCanada contractor will set up three work camps, referred to as “man camps” by pipeline opponents. A TransCanada employee says up to 1,200 people will live in the camps, located in Harding, Meade, and Tripp counties. Some interveners express fears about the safety of the surrounding areas when that many people, most of them men, arrive. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks reports on this last witness in the Public Utilities Commission hearing that started July 27 and concluded Wednesday.

Victoria Wicks

At the Public Utilities Commission hearing in Pierre, a whistleblower testified earlier in the week, and Wednesday morning, TransCanada rebutted his testimony. Evan Vokes alleged TransCanada ignores regulations and uses faulty welding inspections. TransCanada says Vokes was a low-level employee without the required knowledge to make the allegations. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks reports on the hearing set to determine if TransCanada can still meet the conditions it agreed to in 2010, when the PUC first permitted the Keystone XL pipeline.

Victoria Wicks

The water resource director for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says the Keystone XL pipeline project potentially threatens water supplies for his reservation. Doug Crow Ghost testified before the Public Utilities Committee Tuesday in Pierre. The PUC hearing started a week ago and continues this week.

Six years ago, the first Keystone pipeline was under construction through several counties in Eastern South Dakota. One landowner testified Tuesday before the Public Utilities Commission in Pierre that reclamation has not been done. The PUC has been taking testimony for more than a week to determine if TransCanada, the Keystone XL pipeline parent company, can meet 50 conditions attached to its 2010 permit. Among those conditions is land reclamation. The Keystone XL, if built, will run through Western South Dakota.

Victoria Wicks

An economist from Oregon said Monday that the U.S. State Department’s socio-economic study of the Keystone XL pipeline is seriously flawed. The report was not generated by TransCanada but is included as an exhibit for PUC commissioners’ consideration. Kevin Cahill testified for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe at the ongoing Public Utilities Commission hearing, held to determine if TransCanada can meet the 50 conditions imposed on a 2010 permit.

For a thorough look at the Keystone projects and their effects on South Dakota economy, go to the following links to find past SDPB coverage.

Victoria Wicks

Tribal rights have been a touchy subject at the Public Utility Commission’s Keystone XL hearing in Pierre. A pre-hearing order issued by the commission excludes aboriginal title arguments, but not discussion of treaty rights, a distinction attorneys don’t agree on. The pipeline, if built, crosses the western half of South Dakota, over territory set aside for the tribes of the Great Sioux Nation by the Fort Laramie Treaties, and although most of that land is now out of trust, certain laws still apply.

Victoria Wicks

One of the most dogged opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline is John Harter, a landowner near Colome in Tripp County. He fought in court to keep TransCanada from siting the pipeline across his land, and he lost. At the Public Utilities Commission hearing in Pierre, he is an intervener, and as such may ask questions of TransCanada’s witnesses. Although he has a quiet voice and slight stature, he holds his own in a room full of lawyers.

Victoria Wicks

A former TransCanada employee referred to as a whistle-blower took the stand this weekend at the Public Utilities Commission hearing in Pierre. The meeting started last Monday and continues this week. Evan Vokes testified on Saturday, and his testimony continues Monday or Tuesday, depending on scheduling of other witnesses.

Victoria Wicks

If the Keystone XL pipeline is allowed to be built through Western South Dakota, TransCanada will dig a trench more than 300 miles long. The construction project is planned to go through territory occupied by indigenous people for thousands of years before settlers first arrived. As such, a tribal historic preservation officer says all tribes should be consulted.

Victoria Wicks

At the Public Utilities Commission’s hearing on the Keystone XL pipeline, there are parties with attorneys, and there are parties without attorneys. The latter are the individual interveners who want to know what’s going on because their lives and their land could be affected by the pipeline, especially if something goes wrong. They have the right to cross examine TransCanada’s witnesses, and some of them are learning the frustration of trying to get an answer.

Victoria Wicks

Time set for the Keystone XL hearing in Pierre has been extended. The Public Utilities Commission had set the week of July 27 through Aug. 4, with a clear weekend. But today (Thursday), TransCanada’s witnesses are still on the stand, and interveners’ witnesses are still to come.

The delay comes largely because each TransCanada witness is subject to cross-examination by about a dozen interveners, one at a time. Questioning is detailed and lengthy, as are objections and discussions of the hearing’s format.

Victoria Wicks

When TransCanada was given authority to build the Keystone XL Pipeline through Western South Dakota ten years ago, the Public Utilities Commission issued 50 amended conditions with the permit. Those 50 conditions are at the heart of the Keystone XL Pipeline hearing held this week and next.

To read the 50 conditions, go to this link and scroll down to page 25.

https://puc.sd.gov/commission/orders/hydrocarbonpipeline/2010/hp09-001c.pdf

Victoria Wicks SDPB

After a year and a half of hearings, motions, and filings, the state Public Utilities Commission is taking testimony on whether to authorize TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline across South Dakota. Both opponents and proponents have been outlining their cases in the seven-day hearing before the PUC. 

Victoria Wicks

A witness called by TransCanada on Tuesday has been bumped to later in the week. Rick Perkins was called to provide rebuttal testimony to a witness for the Yankton Sioux Tribe, but that witness had not yet testified and therefore could not be rebutted.

Victoria Wicks

At the Keystone XL hearing in Pierre this week, Tuesday afternoon was filled with arguments among attorneys over whether certain testimony should be included. A witness for TransCanada was asked about shippers’ contracts, and rather than have those questions answered, TransCanada withdrew the testimony.

Victoria Wicks

The Keystone XL pipeline hearings in Pierre delve into details of the Keystone One pipeline already built on the eastern side of the state, and on assurances TransCanada has made for the proposed Western South Dakota route. A Keystone official has been on the stand since Monday afternoon, often deferring questions to other TransCanada witnesses still to come. Each witness is subject to cross-examination and re-cross by interveners and their attorneys, and by Public Utilities Commissioners and their staff.

Victoria Wicks

Parties in the Keystone XL pipeline hearings in Pierre made opening statements Monday afternoon. Both opponents and proponents outlined what case they’ll try to make during the seven-day hearing, held before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks is in Pierre covering the hearing held to determine if TransCanada can still meet the conditions set when the PUC gave the company its 2010 permit to build.

Photo courtesy of the Public Utilities Commission

Pipeline opponents raised objections to the absence of one Public Utilities Commissioner at a Keystone XL pipeline hearing that started Monday morning in Pierre.
Attorney Paul Blackburn, representing Bold Nebraska, says state law requires that absent commissioner Kristie Fiegen be replaced with a Governor’s appointee.
Fiegen has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer, a fact she has made public. She intends to review a complete transcript of the hearing or listen to audio of the entire hearing after she has recovered from treatment.

Victoria Wicks

After a year and a half of hearings, motions, and filings, the Public Utilities Commission is taking testimony on whether to authorize TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline across South Dakota. The commission started taking opening statements from opponents and proponents Monday morning. It’s been an emotionally charged issue on both sides.

Photo courtesy of the Public Utilities Commission

Public Utilities Commissioner Kristie Fiegen won’t attend a seven-day hearing that starts Monday as part of the permitting process for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Fiegen announced publicly earlier this year that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

PUC Chairman Chris Nelson says Fiegen’s treatment during the time of the hearing won’t allow her to attend either in person or by phone. However, he says state law allows a board or commission member to participate in a hearing after the fact by reading a complete transcript or listening to a complete recording.

Victoria Wicks

On Monday evening, public utilities commissioners heard from more than 50 opponents and supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline. This gathering, held in advance of a longer hearing set for the end of the month, gave citizens an opportunity to offer up their opinions on the project even though they’re not official interveners. It also gave opponents an opportunity to address two topics that have been deemed irrelevant to the end-of-month hearing—climate change and tribal treaty rights.

The state Public Utilities Commission continues to hash out procedures leading up to a hearing this summer. The Keystone XL pipeline is on the docket at the end of July for an evidentiary hearing, but commissioners will continue to decide on rules governing the proceedings up until then.

Photo by Victoria Wicks

The permit to allow Keystone XL Pipeline to cross South Dakota is on hold until later this summer. A hearing set for early May has been postponed to late July or early August, to allow opponents’ attorneys to sort through volumes of information delivered by TransCanada just ten days ago. This documents dump came after the Public Utilities Commission ordered the pipeline company to turn over all information requested by parties by April 17th.

Photo courtesy of the Public Utilities Commission

If  Tuesday’s Public Utilities Commission meeting is a sample of what’s to come, a four-day hearing next month promises to be exhausting and contentious. Commissioners heard hours of arguments from proponents and opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, laying the groundwork for the hearing set for May 5-8 in Pierre. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks reports on attempts by opponents to gain details of TransCanada’s plans, and the Canadian pipeline company’s attempts to protect that information.

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