The same lawyer who wrote up the SDGOP's feeble threat to sue TV stations for airing negative ads about Mike Rounds carried TransCanada's water yesterday in an effort to block citizens from fighting Keystone XL. And believe it or not, our Public Utilities Commissioners took the people's side!

43 individuals and organizations filed for intervenor status in the process under which the PUC will consider renewing TransCanada's permit to build the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline across West River. TransCanada sent Sioux Falls lawyer William Taylor to keep Bold Nebraska,, sixteen Nebraskans, and two Minnesota tribal members out of the process. At yesterday's party status hearing, Commissioners Gary Hanson, Chris Nelson, and Kristie Fiegen held the door open for every one of those interested parties:

Chairman Gary Hanson said the term “interested person” isn’t defined in the state laws governing PUC permitting. He said the laws also provide intervener status for environmental organizations.

“This is why we’re so lenient in granting party status, because the doors are so open on this,” Hanson told Taylor.

Commissioner Chris Nelson said he reads the laws to mean the commission has flexibility in deciding who can intervene, and Commissioner Kristie Fiegen said the Legislature “intentionally” wrote the law in broad language so the PUC could be inclusive [Bob Mercer, "43 Granted Intervener Status in Keystone XL Proceedings," Aberdeen American News, 2014.10.29].

Funny that TransCanada was arguing that non-South Dakotans can't participate in the South Dakota PUC's permitting process. By that logic, I would think the commissioners would have to bar the door to TransCanada as well, since none of their directors live in South Dakota. Luckily for them, Commissioners Hanson, Nelson, and Fiegen avoided that complication.


Republicans are desperate to beat back Rick Weiland's October surge. Alas, the only way the National Republican Senatorial Committee sees fit to do that is through more falsehood:

The two biggest lies in this ad are the claims that (1) Weiland supports cutting $700 billion from Medicare and (2) Keystone XL would create 40,000 jobs.

The claim that the Affordable Care Act cuts $700 billion in Medicare benefits was false before anyone had entered South Dakota's Senate race. The $700 billion claim was false when Mike Rounds made it in May. It's still false.

The claim that Keystone XL will create 40,000 jobs is fuzzy math of Mike Rounds/EB-5 proportions. A couple thousand workers will spend a few months crossing the high plains laying pipe. Some folks in the neighborhood of the work camps will sell more sandwiches. Then the workers and the jobs and the paychecks will go away, and there will be maybe fifty TransCanada workers left to monitor and repair pipe and pump stations.

Republicans have nothing left but falsehood. Voters, don't give your vote to someone who can't tell the truth.


Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Rick Weiland visited the Lakota spiritual camp protesting the Keystone XL pipeline near Ideal on Friday:

Rick Weiland at Keystone XL protest camp, Ideal, South Dakota, 2014.10.17.

Rick Weiland at Keystone XL protest camp, Ideal, South Dakota, 2014.10.17.

Looks like the Indians have a cowboy on their side. Contrary to John Tsitrian's read, opposition to Keystone XL resonates beyond the traditional reservation vote.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is leading opposition to Keystone XL with Oyate Wahacanka Woecun, "Shield the People," which is building alliances to keep the black snake from the north out of South Dakota. This video explains their protest as a mix of spiritualism (I should be nervous) and a practical commitment to protecting the basic necessities of life.

Shield The People - Oyate Wahacanka from Oyate Wahacanka on Vimeo.

For some people, Rick Weiland in on the side of the spirits. But for all of us, Weiland's on the side of good stewardship of the earth that keeps us all alive.


TransCanada's application to renew its permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline is before the Public Utilities Commission, and one important deadline is already upon us. Citizens and organizations seeking party status—i.e., the right to participate in the hearing and raise some real heck—must file their application (no, you can't just show up at the hearing) with the PUC by this week Wednesday, October 15.

If you want to intervene officially in the Keystone XL hearing, grab this application for party status, fill it out, get a notary stamp on it, and get it to the PUC's office in Pierre by Wednesday. The mailing address is on the application; you can call the PUC at 605-773-3201 to find out about online filing options.

The form asks applicants to explain why they seek party status in no more than 1000 characters. John Harter does it in 39: "KXL is crossing my property if approved." Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska takes 330:

I work with Bold Nebraska and the Cowboy and Indian Alliance on issues regarding Keystone XL pipeline and the concerns around water, private property and soil. We would like to bring up issues, risks and evidence around soil type and the Sandhills that reach into the southern part of South Dakota as well as the Ogallala Aquifer [Jane Kleeb, on behalf of Bold Nebraska, application for party status, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission docket #HP14-001, 2014.10.09].

Eight intervenors have filed so far. The more the merrier!


Evidently Big Oil is going to lay pipelines and hogwash all over South Dakota. Oil and Gas Association dirctor Adam Martin is running around East River telling folks that having the Dakota Access pipeline shoved through their land is somehow a glorious chance to participate in the oil boom.

Help me understand: my neighbor Charlie Johnson gets a big oil pipeline under his organic farm that will carry potentially leaky, explosive oil for maybe 30 years, then sit there and pollute and collapse long afterwards, and he capitalizes on that... how?

As long as America and the industrialized world remains addicted to oil, there's probably no getting around pipelines. But if we buck long enough, we might get the pipelines to go around us. Look at Keystone XL. President Barack Obama as been keeping TransCanada's tar sands pipeline at bay for years with his cowardly but clever delays. And now Alberta's oil producers may take a different route, east through Canada to the Atlantic!

In this period of national gloom comes an idea -- a crazy-sounding notion, or maybe, actually, an epiphany. How about an all-Canadian route to liberate that oil sands crude from Alberta’s isolation and America’s fickleness? Canada’s own environmental and aboriginal politics are holding up a shorter and cheaper pipeline to the Pacific that would supply a shipping portal to oil-thirsty Asia.

Instead, go east, all the way to the Atlantic.

Thus was born Energy East, an improbable pipeline that its backers say has a high probability of being built. It will cost C$12 billion ($10.7 billion) and could be up and running by 2018. Its 4,600-kilometer (2,858-mile) path, taking advantage of a vast length of existing and underused natural gas pipeline, would wend through six provinces and four time zones. It would be Keystone on steroids, more than twice as long and carrying a third more crude [Rebecca Penty, Hugo Miller, Andrew Mayeda and Edward Greenspon, "Keystone Be Darned: Canada Finds Oil Route Around Obama," Bloomberg, 2014.10.08].

Running even more tar sands oil through Canada instead of South Dakota wouldn't make Bill McKibben, climate-change crusaders, or alternative-energy advocates happy. But it would keep South Dakotans from bearing the costs of a pipeline that does not serve South Dakota interests.

And if Energy East supplants Keystone XL, it will be because committed activists kept up the pressure that forced the market to seek other solutions. That's not a total win, but it's better than nothing.

So Charlie, what can we do to get Dakota Access to seek alternatives?


I don't watch much MSNBC. But when I do, it's gosh-darned awesome... with Rick Weiland laying out how he can close the gap and win the U.S. Senate:

Top lines no pundits imagined one year ago:

  • Ed Schultz reminds us that Tim Johnson kept his seat in 2002 thanks to the Indian vote. Schultz then reminds us that the Indian vote this year will be strongly against the Keystone XL pipeline. Implication: contrary to John Tsitrian's thesis, Keystone XL could put Weiland over the top.
  • Weiland expects big money to come after him on Keystone XL, but he unashamedly blasts away at the lies Mike Rounds tells us to justify the pipeline.
  • Schultz says he'll give us his full report on EB-5 next week Monday... because, I'll bet, he realizes it's a complicated story that will take some time to tell. That means that while Rounds gets beat up by the Beltway buzz over the entry of the Mayday PAC and national Dems on behalf of Rick Weiland, Rounds gets a whole 'nother dose of heartburn next week when the national press has had time to get its head around the complexities of EB-5.
  • "Mike Rounds really has this air of corruption around him," says progressive politicker Adam Green. "Rick Weiland is the perfect candidate at the perfect time."
  • "Isn't [Weiland] today's Democrat?" asks Schultz. "Yeah," says Green. "...This could be the defining race that puts Democrats over the top."

By the way, Rick Weiland is getting more free national press in two days than Mike Rounds has drawn in two years:

Remind me, Mike, what are you paying your people for?

David Allen, Democratic candidate for Public Utilities Commission

David Allen, Democratic candidate for Public Utilities Commission

David Allen wants to replace Gary Hanson on the Public Utilities Commission. The Yankton electrical contractor expresses a healthy concern about corporate power in government and wants to focus on protecting South Dakotans' pocketbooks.

Allen, a Democrat, has run for office before in an unsuccessful bid for District 18 Senate in 2012 against incumbent Republican Senator Jean Hunhoff. Even though he lost that race 65–35, the concerns he heard from numerous constituents about simply making ends meet convinced him to stick with public service. Allen chose the PUC race this year because he sees a chance in that office to do immediate good for families and serve as a buffer against corporate power.

Keystone XL

One example of the corporate power Allen would fight is TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The PUC approved construction of that pipeline in 2010; that permit has lapsed, and the PUC that Allen would join must rehear and reapprove the Canadian company's proposal to lay pipe kittywampus across West River.

Allen strongly opposes Keystone XL, in large part because of eminent domain. Allen says it is "absolutely wrong" that South Dakota allows a foreign corporation to exercise eminent domain on our soil. He worries that the tar sands oil ("dilbit," as it is sometimes called) is highly corrosive and makes leaks inevitable. (A 2011 Alberta government study says chemistry doesn't make the oil more corrosive; more corrosion may come from the higher temperature and pressure needed to make the dilbit flow.) Allen notes that folks in British Columbia have rejected a tar sands pipeline*; he argues that we shouldn't host all the risks of Keystone XL "just because we are easily whored out," especially when Keystone XL would carry oil straight to the global export market and add not one drop for U.S. consumption.

Renewable Energy Big and Small

Allen would rather focus on developing more green energy. Pipeline jobs are temporary; renewable energy jobs, says Allen, offer more permanent economic gains. Demand will grow, meaning ongoing job opportunities for installing solar panels and wind turbines. Our vo-techs could both promote and capitalize on green energy by offering more training programs in the field and attracting more students. Allen thus sees renewable energy as a way to renew the youth population, offering them both practical education programs and good job opportunities.

Allen wants to see more small-scale energy production. He favors net metering, allowing homeowners to sell surplus power from their home energy generation back to their co-ops and utility companies. Allen recognizes that utilities need to charge a basic access cost to maintain the grid that transports homeowners' excess power and keeps them juiced on dark, windless nights, but he says homeowner power lessens the burden on the electrical grid and ultimately lowers costs for utilities.

*TransCanada can't go west, but maybe they'll throw a Hail Mary east! Bloomberg reports the Energy East pipeline proposal could take the tar sands 2,858 miles east to New Brunswick and make Keystone XL unnecessary.

Phones, Seeds, and Sioux Falls

Allen commented on an array of other issues during our conversation Monday. He says we should keep encouraging tower construction to reduce our cell phone dead zones. He'd like to see directories start including cell phone numbers. If the idea of increased publication of your cell phone number alarms you, note that Allen would also like to put more teeth in our do-not-call lists.

The fallout from the Anderson Seeds collapse still weighs on Allen's mind. He doesn't think the PUC and Legislature have taken enough action to protect farmers from getting stiffed by failing grain warehouses. Allen says he wants higher bonds to protect those farmer-investors. Likening the failure of Anderson Seeds to the bankruptcy of Northern Beef Packers and problems with South Dakota's EB-5 program, Allen says the PUC needs to offer more checks on power and oversight to protect South Dakotans from shaky and shady businesses.

Allen says his incumbent opponent, Commissioner Gary Hanson, leans a bit too much in favor of corporations. But Allen also throws the Sioux Falls flag on Hanson. He's uneasy with two-thirds of the PUC coming from Sioux Falls and thinks South Dakotans would be better served by diversifying the geography of the PUC members with some Yankton blood.

Voters have through November 4 to choose among Allen, Hanson, and the very quiet Constitution Party candidate Wayne Schmidt from Mobridge.


Stick to your guns, Rick and Corinna!

Mr. Tsitrian extends and revises his August remarks to maintain that opposition to the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline loses votes for Democrats. Tsitrian and I continue to disagree on the merits of the new argument onto which Republicans have latched, that building Keystone XL will free up rail cars to ship South Dakota grain.

Whether or not moving more oil out of Alberta by pipeline would result in more available rail cars in South Dakota remains a dubious prospect. U.S. oil may make up less than 8% of what flows through Keystone XL. Bakken producers can make more money shipping their product by rail east and west rather than south via Keystone XL to the Gulf Coast refineries, which already have plenty of light crude like North Dakota's product.

I maintain that we could get more direct and immediate transportation results for our farmers by a variety of policies:

  1. Nationalize the railroads.
  2. Build more railroads.
  3. Impose a "bumper crop" rule requiring railroads to dedicate a percentage of their hauling capacity to crops that rises with reported stockpiles at prairie elevators.
  4. Mandate priority for domestic products: U.S. grain moves before Canadian oil.
  5. Create big immediate tax incentives for training and hiring new truckers to relieve the shortage of road haulers, move more transport to trucks, and free up rail cars for farm products.

Those policy options would have at least as much impact on rail shipping as building Keystone XL, without the harmful side effects, like raising gasoline prices and lowering property values. Imposing regulations on the railroads (who exist by the good graces of government and eminent domain) would not be as socially or environmentally harmful as forcing a pipeline on landowners with eminent domain. Even if we used eminent domain to build a new railroad right along the Keystone XL route instead of the pipeline, we would at least be using eminent domain in its intended spirit, to create a true common carrier that could benefit multiple shippers and other businesses rather than a pipeline that profits one company and hauls one product from one region.

The problem is that to beat Tsitrian and the new GOP spin, we have to explain all that. Tsitrian and I will have immense fun digging up evidence to support our claims (we need a TV show! John, let's buy Gordon Howie's studio!), but we're both past the 30 seconds we need to convince voters, and I'm the one swimming uphill against popular sentiment in favor of Keystone XL.

Even so, beam my brain into Rick Weiland's or Corinna Robinson's body, and I stick to their guns and keep saying to South Dakotans, "You and I agree on most issues, but I'm telling you what I've told you from the start of this campaign: Keystone XL is a net loss for this state. A few more available rail cars won't make up for a letting a Canadian company take our land. I'm just being honest, and that's more than you'll get from my opponents."


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