PIERRE, SD -
It's a $7 billion project that would cut through western South Dakota.
Transcanada is trying to get a federal permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring oil from northern Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries. But before the U.S. State Department grants the permit, they are holding public hearings along the proposed route, including in South Dakota.
Transcanada is already pumping oil underneath South Dakota soil from Canada to Texas. Thursday at the Ramkota Hotel in Pierre, dozens of people were piping up to give their opinions on Transcanada's second proposed project, the Keystone XL.
"The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is a 1,700 mile long fuse to the largest carbon bomb in North America," Pat Spears with the International Council on Utility Policy said.
"We feel this will be the safest pipeline in the world and it's needed," Harding County landowner Jim Doolittle said.
More than 400 people, including union workers, landowners and environmentalists, showed up to tell officials with the U.S. State Department where they stand on the project. Supporters say the pipeline will provide much needed jobs and a friendly-source of oil.
"I would rather import heavy-crude from Canada than buy one more barrel of oil from Hugo Chavez," pipeline supporter Larry Mann said.
"Why wouldn't we want to enhance an already good relationship by agreeing to build this pipeline and bringing the tar sand oils to our refineries. Those oils are going to go somewhere; it only makes sense for that place to be the USA," Harding County landowner Scott Besler said.
But opponents point to the existing Keystone pipeline that runs through South Dakota, saying it's already leaked more than a dozen times and they expect the Keystone XL to do the same thing.
"Fourteen leaks on Keystone One in just over a year, a new gas pipeline in Wyoming explodes and you ask, 'Trust me?' I think not," Tripp County landowner John Harter said.
"A rupture in the Keystone XL pipeline could cause a BP oil spill in America's heartland over the source of fresh drinking water for two million people," Mellette County rancher Trista Olsen said.
The pipeline leaking is a major concern of pipeline opponents here in South Dakota and beyond.
In Nebraska, there are worries a leak would poison the Oglalla aquifer, which supplies water to most of the state.
If you would like to comment on the project
, the deadline is October 9.
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