John Thune is running for President. How else can we explain our soon-to-be-senior Senator's seemingly sensible statement on climate change on Fox News Sunday?

Asked about the overwhelming agreement among experts on the cause and trajectory of global warming, Thune began with a familiar GOP climate-change dodge: “Climate change is occurring, it’s always occurring.” But then he said this: “There are a number of factors that contribute to that, including human activity. The question is, what are we going to do about it and at what cost?” [Stephen Stromberg, "Top Republican Bows to Scientists on Climate Change," Washington Post, 2014.11.17]

Amidst a science- and fact-averse Republican Party, Stromberg takes Thune's seemingly innocuous and wide-wiggly phrase as a "glimmer of hope." We should take it as a sign that he's thinking about how he sounds to people outside South Dakota. Democrats should take it as a sign that there's going to be another open Senate seat for which to contend in 2016.

And who better to contend for it than Rick Weiland? Weiland's latest public statement shows him swinging at the powers that be, including the Senate Democrats he wanted to join this year:

The only crock bigger than the Keystone Pipeline is Senate Democrats dumping on our environment to try to save one of their own.

Talk about business as usual, talk about midterm lessons unlearned, talk about just plain stupid!

You've already lost the Senate. Polls show that Mary Landrieu, whose runoff election you hope to influence, has absolutely no chance of winning. So what do you do, backstab your president, our Native Nations and the entire environmental community on behalf of a pipeline that will not only not create jobs or any energy security, but will pour additional billions in profits into the hands of the big money special interests who just spent a fortune to crush your party at the polls.

That's genius, DC Democrat style. And it is the reason my campaign is not over. In fact, it has just begun [Rick Weiland, campaign e-mail, 2014.11.17].

What what? Campaign not over?

For 18 months we ran for Senate with little more than my videographer son Nick, myself, a lot of shoe leather, and the help of a handful of friends with more passion and skill than common sense.

I want to keep that team together, retire our small debt, and get back into the fight, right now. If the DC Democrats selling us out on Keystone XL doesn't show why we can't wait, what will?

Please, send just a few bucks and stay tuned. We may have gotten washed over by the same wave that drowned so many Democrats. But unlike them, we're not rolling over, belly up and bloated, we're fighting on.

We are going to make South Dakota a demonstration project, and a nationwide beacon for the fight against big money.

And if you don't think that matters to you, think about this. Does Elizabeth Warren's voice matter beyond the boundaries of Massachusetts, or Bernie Sanders beyond Vermont, or did Paul Wellstone make any difference outside of Minnesota? [Weiland, 2014.11.17]

Demonstration project? Warren, Sanders, Wellstone? I said Sunday South Dakota Democrats should elect a liberal leader like Warren to chair the party back to victory, and here's my fellow Bulldog Debate alum Rick sounding very much as if he's answering that call.

Or does Weiland just sound like the Tea Party? WaPo's Dana Milbank finds a herd of liberal protestors on Senator Landrieu's front step talking a lot like Weiland and sees a no-compromise parallel:

One of the speakers, a young woman named Maria Langholz, argued that liberals must stop Democrats from “compromising on the promises they have made.” I pointed out that her message sounded like the tea party.

“I know,” Langholz said with a laugh. But she had just returned from working on the Senate race in Iowa, where Democrat Bruce Braley, “kind of middle-of-the-road,” lost to conservative Republican Joni Ernst.

“Ernst was sticking to her guns, saying, ‘This is what I stand for,’ ” Langholz concluded, “and that really inspires people” [Dana Milbank, "Purity Politics, Democrat-Style," Washington Post, 2014.11.17].

Senator Thune says today's Senate vote on Keystone XL is just a "cynical" political ploy to throw Senator Landrieu a lifeline in her December run-off election. It won't rescue Landrieu or build the pipeline. Senator Thune will still vote for the pipeline, on false pretenses, and in contradiction to his hint of concern about climate change.

And Rick Weiland says he will keep fighting Keystone XL, Big Money, and even Senate Democrats. But Milbank's column makes me wonder: are Rick and I looking for the South Dakota Democratic Party's Elizabeth Warren, or are we really looking for an SDDP Joni Ernst... or Sarah Palin?

41 comments

Rep. Kristi Noem and the U.S. House approve Keystone XL? Them's fightin' words, says the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Literally:

“The House has now signed our death warrants and the death warrants of our children and grandchildren. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will not allow this pipeline through our lands,” said President Scott of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “We are outraged at the lack of intergovernmental cooperation. We are a sovereign nation and we are not being treated as such. We will close our reservation borders to Keystone XL. Authorizing Keystone XL is an act of war against our people” [Aldo Seoane, "House Vote in Favor of the Keystone XL Pipeline an Act of War," Lakota Voice, 2014.11.14].

I am glad somebody in South Dakota is standing up to TransCanada. The term act of war is apt: a foreign entity is seizing rights from our own landowners, using our own courts and quisling politicians against us. The tribes have done fine work rousing their people and gathering allies to fight this encroachment on our sovereignty, not to mention this threat to our environmental and economic security.

But closing the reservation borders will have no impact on building Keystone XL. TransCanada drew its pipeline route to skirt all reservation borders. Rosebud Homeland Security will have to set up checkpoints and artillery on the 1868 borders.

Related: Rep. Noem and the House need to remember that Keystone XL still needs to go through the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission and the Nebraska Supreme Court. Lots of battlegrounds, Rosebud neighbors!

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Rep. Kristi Noem voted today to support the House's unconstitutional effort to violate the separation of powers and tell TransCanada it can build the Keystone XL pipeline without the approval of the President of the United States. Rep. Noem is on automatic pilot for Big Oil, so there's no news there.

Offering us something slightly more interesting is Rep. Justin Amash, the only Republican not to vote in favor of HR 5682. Rep. Amash didn't vote against HR 5682, either; he voted presentjust as he did in May. Rep. Amash says he supports Keystone XL, but he has issues with a bill that targeting a specific company. Hmm... the Constitution (Article 1, Section 9) prohibits bills of attainder, Congressional acts that single out a person or group for punishment without trial; so what do we call a bill that singles out a person or company for a special favor?

Our scholarly President could likely expound on that Constitutional point to justify a veto, but he's sticking with more practical matters. He seems a bit put off by the fact that, of all the useful legislation Congress could have taken up right away after the election, the House and Senate are concentrating on a piddly little bill that doesn't seem to do much good for anyone but a Canadian company and the Chinese:

In some of his strongest language yet, Obama pushed back against the Republican argument that the pipeline is a “massive jobs bill for the United States.”

“Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn't have an impact on US gas prices,” he said, growing visibly frustrated.

“If my Republican friends really want to focus on what's good for the American people in terms of job creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a conversation about what are we doing to produce even more homegrown energy? I'm happy to have that conversation,” he continued [Jim Avila, Chris Good, and Mary Bruce, "Obama Doubles Down on Immigration, Keystone Pipeline," ABC News, 2014.11.14].

Correction, Mr. President: Keystone XL does have an impact on U.S. gas prices. Keystone XL raises our gas prices.

Our own Senator John Thune helps peddle the lie about Keystone XL creating 42,000 jobs. (Come January, South Dakota will no longer have anyone in Congress capable of telling the truth.) No, the State Department report doesn't say that:

Over the course of up to two years of construction, the State Department estimates a total of 42,100 jobs "would be supported by construction of the proposed project." Some jobs are directly tied to the pipeline and construction. Other jobs are simply a nature of how spending $8 billion ripples out into the economy. And more than 99 percent are temporary.

...The State Department estimates that 26,100 indirect and induced jobs "would be supported by construction of the proposed project" during the construction phase. The jobs would be in providing the supply chain to Keystone as well as employee spending on lodging, food, entertainment, health care, etc.

The State Department calls these jobs "supported" and not created because it includes jobs that already exist [Katie Sanders, "Fox News Host: Keystone Pipeline Would Create 'Tens of Thousands of Jobs'," Politifact.com, 2014.11.13].

Keystone XL will create at most a couple thousand temporary jobs, most to be filled by out-of-state contractors who will follow the pipeline down the route, just as happened with Keystone 1 through eastern South Dakota. Any jobs Keystone XL creates will be swamped by the jobs it kills by raising energy costs.

Republicans keep lying about Keystone XL. The proper response to such lies is not the Democratic surrenderism of Senators Mary Landrieu and Michael Bennet; the proper response is to tell the truth (Senator Johnson! Swing harder!) and put the interest of the American people before the profits of a Canadian pipeline company.

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Senator-Elect Mike Rounds based his campaign on a series of laughable lies, including the claim that building the Keystone XL pipeline will drive trains to every farmer's doorstep to haul away their grain.

Would you believe the railroads themselves don't buy that argument? An eager reader sends me this BNSF newsletter from Winter 2013, before Republicans Doctor Moreau'ed Keystone XL and agricultural rail service, in which the company says Keystone XL will have little impact on its business choices:

Huge growth in Canadian crude oil production is expected in the next 20 years. In anticipation of the growth, many crude-loading facilities are currently under construction in Canada, and many more are being planned. Even if the Keystone XL pipeline is built, the growth in production is projected to exceed the capacity of the Keystone.

In addition, rail provides some unique advantages, including destination flexibility, and reduces time-to-market. Rail also has the potential to move the heavy bitumen crude with little to no diluent; pipelines require a diluent of 30 percent to flow. These all bring value to our customers, and so we see crude-by-rail being a key player in the Canadian market regardless of whether the Keystone XL is built [Teresa Perkins, "Oil Will Continue to Be Important Cargo at BNSF," Railway newsletter, Winter 2013].

Perkins says BNSF has invested $3 billion in crude oil rail facilities and tank cars (which can't haul grain). It would seem unlikely BNSF is going to let those assets sit idle just because Mike Rounds wants them to haul grain for a couple months a year. BNSF also contends that rail is cheaper and more flexible for Bakken shippers, which suggests Keystone XL is a non-starter for our North Dakota oil baron neighbors.

BNSF chief Matt Rose underlined this business analysis just last month:

BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Matt Rose says that even if the controversial Keystone would not take away business from BNSF. “I don’t think it would take business,” Rose says. “I think it would make the curve of our growth go down a little bit."

Rose tells Fox Business News that Keystone will not take away its crude oil business because the pipeline would largely carry heavy crude south, while pipelines won’t be able to handle all the crude oil destined for east and west coasts. BNSF is a major mover of crude oil from the Bakken formation ["Rose: Keystone Pipeline Won't Take Away from BNSF Oil Business," Trains, 2014.10.01].

We'll see how long it takes for business reality to set in with Mike Rounds and the pro-Keystone XL Republicans. The only pipeline we're going to need is the ink pipeline to load President Obama's veto pen against all of the Congressional Republicans bad ideas.

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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, 350.org, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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