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PUC Grants Intervenor Status to All Applicants on Keystone XL Docket

Last updated on 2014.11.29

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.


  1. Roger Elgersma 2014.10.29

    Hansen is up for reelection. What will he do after the elections.

  2. Bill Fleming 2014.10.29

    What are you getting at, Roger?

  3. Tim 2014.10.29

    Must be an election year, that's the only time Hansen cares about the people.

  4. Steve Sibson 2014.10.29

    So we have 43 individuals and organizations that may not know they are carrying the crony capitalist money bucket for Warren Buffet.

  5. Donald Pay 2014.10.29

    Bill Taylor should know better, but then again he had no problem allowing non-resident Nevadans dump non-resident Minnesotans sewage ash in South Dakota against resident the interests of South Dakota "interested parties." Now he's representing a Canadian outfit trying to do about the same thing. Some things never change.

  6. Paul Seamans 2014.10.29

    The PUC commissioners were very, very fair to those of us at the meeting. If someone got off subject while commenting Gary Hanson would gently steer them them back to the subject at hand. All commissioners seemed concerned about citizens being able to be heard rather than some technicality of the law that would keep them from gaining party status. Gary Hanson is the only one on the commission that was there when the permit was issued back in 2010 and he was fair to all back then, I don't think his fairness stems from his worrying about being reelected. To Steve Sibson I would say that the KXL has nothing to do with oil coming out of the Bakken, the KXL is for tarsands crude coming out of Alberta. Warren Buffet and the BNSF are providing a service to the Bakken producers, they prefer to ship by rail as they can ship in any direction to wherever the demand is and as a result receive higher prices for their product.

  7. Bill Fleming 2014.10.29

    Paul, thanks for the crystal clear explanation of the distinction between Bakken and Canadian goo-crude, and the distinctly different shipping strategies of both. I hope somebody posts it in a thousand billboards all over the state.

  8. Les 2014.10.29

    Gary Hanson should be on the ballot for governor. That said, it is important for him to be there on the Black Hills mining issues. It wasn't Gary who handed our states DENR controls off to the Feds.

  9. Nick Nemec 2014.10.29

    Yes, thanks for restating the difference between tar sand crude and Bakken oil. KXL is for the tar sands stuff and any claims that it will carry Bakken oil is propaganda designed to trick the ignorant masses in to approving KXL. Bakken oil is high grade stuff and rail allows the producers to ship to whoever will bid the highest rather than being held captive to one buyer at the end of the pipe.

  10. leslie 2014.10.29

    we need a history of the minerals board, and the PUC showing who politicized natural resource protection and when, which governors packed the boards, for what reasons, and what the cumulative effects have been. maybe water board too.

  11. 96Tears 2014.10.29

    Nick, I think the connection they are propagandizing these days is bitumen and Bakken oil are dependent on rail cars ... which takes them away from farmers wanting to send their corn to market. They claim coal shipments are also threatened. That's bullshit, of course, because rail car shortages have been a rail company trick since the 70s and because oil companies will have priority over corn shipments no matter what happens. The fossil fuel lobby and the rail lobby are connected at the hip. Agriculture just takes what it gets.

  12. Keystone Killer 2014.10.29

    Hooray for the Pipeline Fighters!!! TranScamada loses yet another attempt to pull one over on the people! There is NO BENEFIT to the people of South Dakota if the KXL is granted a construction permit through the state, just a hell of a LOT OF RISK!

    The KXL is NOT a Common Carrier, despite TranScamada's claims to the contrary. Its sole purpose is to ship dilbit to Gulf Coast refineries in the duty-free zone to be made into diesel and shipped to China and India.

    TranScamada has built exactly ONE Tarsands Crude pipeline in company history, the Keystone I. It leaked 26 times in its first year of operation. TranScamada is a Natural Gas pipeline builder, and they don't do that very well, either.

    In July, 2011, just six months after completion, their Bison NatGas pipeline exploded in Wyoming. In January of this year, outside of Winnipeg, Manitoba, another of their NatGas pipelines exploded and burned for days. And just as recently as September, a TranScamada NatGas pipeline exploded in Michigan.

    See a pattern here? LOTS of TALK about "safety" by TranScamada, but the truth is they build junk and put profits above all else. The "51 extra safety standards" they claim are nothing more than the minimum standards suggested by the PHMSA, nothing more. Their "state of the art leak detection system"? TWENTY YEAR OLD TECHNOLOGY! Their shutoff valves? The distance between them will contain over SIX MILLION GALLONS of Tarsands Crude that can leak out - to put that into perspective, the Enbridge Tarsands crude spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan was 1.2 million gallons and has taken over 4 years and $1 BILLION dollars to clean up and it's STILL not finished, the Pegasus Line Tarsands crude rupture in Mayflower, Arkansas was over 500,000 gallons and destroyed an entire neighborhood and is still in the process of being cleaned up.

    Do you see the pattern here, people?

  13. Jenny 2014.10.29

    Keystone Killer, thanks for the important reminders of the sad, catastrophic history of leaks and explosions by Transcanada. Why on earth South Dakotans would want to ruin beautiful West River by building KXL for a few temp jobs, I don't know. One nationalized leak would hurt tourism I imagine, but no, South Dakotans want a few temp jobs instead.

  14. Lawrence Novotny 2014.10.29

    Here is a speak-out that Phyllis Cole-Dai and Lawrence Novotny of Brookings are submitting to the Brookings Register and Argus Leader:


    On Tuesday, October 28, the Public Utilities Commission met in Pierre to decide who can formally weigh in on whether it should re-certify TransCanada’s permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline through our state. As you likely know, that proposed pipeline would transport toxic tar sands oil (not crude oil) down from Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast, primarily for export. TransCanada’s original PUC certification expired this summer.

    Nearly 45 individuals, tribal nations and non-profit organizations petitioned for intervener status, opposing re-certification. That number is three times more than it was four years ago when TransCanada’s permit was first approved. “Not a record number [of interveners],” said PUC Chair Gary Hanson, “but certainly quite a roomful.” Among them were Dakota Rural Action, South Dakota Wildlife Federation, South Dakota Peace & Justice Center, Sierra Club, and the Cheyenne River, Rosebud, Standing Rock, and Yankton Sioux Tribes.

    This was an important meeting in the fight against Keystone XL. That’s why the two of us traveled to Pierre to lend our support to those seeking intervener status. As interveners they or their legal counsel would be allowed to testify, call witnesses, submit evidence and cross-examine TransCanada “experts” at the eventual PUC re-certification hearing.

    Those applying as interveners cited a range of concerns about Keystone XL, including violations of property and treaty rights; environmental risks, especially to the Ogallala Aquifer, the Missouri River, and innumerable other South Dakota water resources; the threat to sacred cultural sites of tribal people; the pipeline’s contribution to climate change; the social ills associated with man-camps (e.g., human trafficking), and more.

    Tuesday’s meeting lasted nearly three hours. By our count, TransCanada’s lawyer, Mr. William Taylor, contested the standing of half the petitioners. For some reason, he was allowed to remain at the microphone, seated before the panel, even as the Commissioners were hearing testimony from petitioners. In other words, he was seated directly beside those persons opposing his corporate client.

    This seemed to us a clear intimidation tactic. We almost applauded when Dallas Goldtooth, one of the last petitioners called forward to defend his right to intervene, asked the Commissioners, “Does Mr. Taylor need to be sitting right beside me while I testify?”

    TransCanada’s attorney then rose from his seat and stepped aside. But with all due respect, Mr. Goldtooth should never have had to ask the question.

    Everybody in that room knew where TransCanada’s loyalties lie. They don’t lie with farmers and ranchers, or tribal people. With anyone wanting to protect water and land resources from contamination that can’t be cleaned up. With anyone trying to protect the planet against climate change due to human activity, like the extraction and use of tar sands oil and other fossil fuels. Clearly TransCanada’s loyalties don’t lie with South Dakotans.

    But what about the PUC?

    We’re happy to report that at least on Tuesday, despite enabling Mr. Taylor’s subtle intimidation, the PUC was loyal to the people of South Dakota. The Commissioners voted unanimously to grant intervener status to every petitioner. By statute, they explained, this process is meant to be fair, democratic and broadly inclusive.

    We can only hope that we’ll be able to report the same after the re-certification hearing. The date of that hearing is yet to be determined, but as Chairman Hanson observed, it’s likely to be a “protracted” event.

    And well it should. Much will be at stake. And we South Dakotans should be at that hearing in great numbers, to make sure that TransCanada is finally made to step aside from this odious pipeline project, once and for all.

  15. Douglas Wiken 2014.10.29

    If their remote leak detection actually works, they won't need any South Dakota employees.

    Nearly everything XL contractor-promoters said at initial dog and pony shows with the SD PUC have turned out to be mostly false or distorted. Everything that is done to actually make the pipeline and put it into the ground is done by subcontractors. The lawyers at the Winner Meeting said they had little control over the contractors over who they hired or how they did the job.

    There is no win-win in this for South Dakotans or any other American fuel buyers. It is all loss-loss and it is hard to see that the GOP support for this is based on anything other than contributions by the fossil-fuels industry.

  16. Les 2014.10.29

    This is another Mike Rounds sellout to big biz when he vetoed Senator Maher's bill that would have put a 2cent tax with the 30Mil cap for a spill reserve fund. Like mining history, Gov Rounds chose to put that on the back of all SD's, not just West River. Several GOP senators also sold out that day voting against an override on that fellacious action.

  17. Paul Seamans 2014.10.29

    Les, Dennis Daugaard is no better. While Lt. governor and as President of the Senate he effectively killed the same pipeline bonding bill by requiring a two thirds vote as he decided it was a tax bill. We needed 24 votes to advance the bill to the house, we got 23.

  18. Jane 2014.10.29

    Does Keystone XL involve Bollen and buddies? Thought there was a mention about KXL and SD EB-5 somewhere.

  19. jerry 2014.10.29

    So, who in South Dakota stands to reap the money from this tourist killer.

  20. Les 2014.10.29

    XL does not involve EB5, an attempt by Bollen, yes.

  21. Paul Seamans 2014.10.29

    Jerry, the people that think they will reap the money are the counties along the route. TC is promising these counties $20 million per year in new property tax revenues. As counties along the Keystone 1 have found out these promises are just more of TransCanada's lies calculated to get people on their side.

  22. lesliengland 2014.10.29

    when did rounds 1st publically support EB5? How did joop/benda initiate that contact? Likely a referral from rounds? How did rounds 1st connect w/KXL? What is current relationship w/KXL?

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