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Published September 24, 2009, 08:07 AM

Pipeline evidence

The TransCanada Keystone Pipeline must give additional information about its proposed crude oil pipeline to a group representing western South Dakota farmers and ranchers, the state Public Utilities Commission decided Wednesday.

By: By Chet Brokaw, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun

PIERRE, S.D. — The TransCanada Keystone Pipeline must give additional information about its proposed crude oil pipeline to a group representing western South Dakota farmers and ranchers, the state Public Utilities Commission decided Wednesday.

However, the PUC rejected Dakota Rural Action’s request for some documents, saying the information deals with issues that will be decided by federal agencies. For example, the state commissioners said they have no jurisdiction over Trans-Canada Keystone’s plan for responding to emergencies along the pipeline because a federal agency is responsible for approving that plan.

Dakota Rural Action sought more information on some safety issues as part of its preparation for a formal hearing the PUC will hold Nov. 2-6 on TransCanada’s siting permit. The commission will decide by next spring whether to approve the permit.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is designed to run 313 miles through western South Dakota as part of a project to deliver Alberta tar sands crude oil to Gulf Coast terminals and refineries in Texas.

Keystone XL would deliver up to 900,000 barrels of crude oil a day through a 36-inch pipe running from near Hardisty, Alberta, to existing Texas terminals near Port Arthur and Houston.

The pipeline would enter South Dakota from Montana in Harding County and then run through Butte, Perkins, Meade, Pennington, Haak-on, Jones, Lyman and Tripp counties before entering Nebraska.

The South Dakota portion is estimated to cost $920 million. The company wants to begin construction in 2011.

TransCanada already is building a pipeline through eastern South Dakota to deliver Canadian crude oil to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma.

The PUC heard arguments for nearly four hours Wednesday on Dakota Rural Action’s request for additional documents dealing with various safety issues. After lengthy discussions, lawyers for Dakota Rural Action and TransCanada Keystone reached compromises on many of them.

Paul Blackburn of Vermillion, a lawyer representing Dakota Rural Action, said farmers and ranchers who live along the proposed pipeline route want more information about possible damage from spills and what will be done when the pipeline is shut down after it wears out.

“The landowners in western South Dakota have been there a very long time,” Blackburn said. “They’re very concerned about the land.”

TransCanada Keystone lawyers said the company has provided all the documents it has for many of Dakota Rural Action’s requests. They said some requests were too broad.

“TransCanada has nothing to hide,” said James Moore, a Sioux Falls lawyer representing the company.

As a result of Wednesday’s hearing, TransCanada Keystone will provide Dakota Rural Action with more information on monitoring the soil cover over the pipeline, procedures for abandoning the pipeline and the composition of oil produced in western Canada. Dakota Rural Action argued the composition of oil could affect corrosion of the pipe.

TransCanada also will provide more information on how it calculated its assessment of a worst-case spill and projections of how the economic slowdown will influence the production and demand for oil.

Blackburn argued that farmers and ranchers need more information about how far damage would extend from the pipe in the event of a spill, particularly how far oil might shoot through the air. TransCanada lawyers said spills typically don’t shoot through the air, and other information on the risk of leaks was given to Dakota Rural Action.

However, TransCanada agreed to provide information on its assessment of risk near environmentally sensitive areas, although those areas won’t be specifically identified.

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