An important deadline is rapidly approaching for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in South Dakota. The state permit allowing construction of the oil pipeline in South Dakota runs out this weekend. But Sunday's expiration date doesn't mean the project is in jeopardy.
After this weekend, the South Dakota permit will no longer be valid until the TransCanada company can prove to the Public Utilities Commission that it will meet all conditions spelled out in the permit. Those conditions include everything from limits on noise from the pipeline's pump stations to protecting fossil sites along the proposed route. TransCanada tells us the company will seek to be re-certified in the state. They're not giving a specific time frame, but say it will be "in due course."
PUC Chairman Gary Hanson didn't expect the Keystone XL project in South Dakota would be in limbo four years after the commission unanimously approved its state permit.
"They seemed pretty excited about getting their pipeline built so I didn't imagine that it was going to take four years later that they would have the permit expire," PUC Chairman Gary Hanson said.
Western South Dakota would be part of the proposed 1,700 mile pipeline taking Canadian crude to refineries in the Gulf Coast. Supporters say construction would boost jobs and reduce our dependence on overseas oil. But opponents say the pipeline poses an environmental risk to sensitive underground water supplies. Hanson expects opposition to get even more heated once TransCanada begins the re-certification process.
"Especially when something is crossing someone's land it becomes emotional and a lot of folks are just opposed to pipelines in general," Hanson said.
Hanson doesn't think the re-certification process will take as long since the ground rules that TransCanada has to follow are already in place.
"We're not going to go through the same process of hearings and citings, etc. that we did on the first one, they just have to show that they still fulfill all of the requirements," Hanson said.
People across the country are watching what happens to TransCanada's South Dakota permit. While Hanson voted for the pipeline project four years ago, he says he hasn't made up his mind how he'd vote a second time around.
"It just depends on the evidence, it always depends upon the evidence," Hanson said.
In an email statement to KELOLAND News, TransCanada says it's in an even stronger position to meet the conditions laid-out in the permit because the company now has long-term commercial agreements in place to transport the oil through their proposed pipeline.
To see the original state pipeline permit, click here.