At hearing, opponents question Keystone XL’s need for South Dakota’s water

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline proposed through South Dakota want more information about the project.

They made arguments Wednesday to the state Water Management Board.

The board’s role is deciding whether to grant permits for the project.

One question raised was whether Governor Kristi Noem and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources have worked too closely with TC Energy, which wants to build the pipeline.

That assertion came from Bruce Ellison of Rapid City, a lawyer representing Dakota Rural Action.

“You are our trustees,” he told the board.

Ann Mines Bailey, an attorney representing the department, said Ellison was off the mark.

“We feel we’ve provided everything he’s asked us, within our capability,” Mines Bailey said.

Ellison defended his requests.

“It’s absolutely legitimate discovery. If there’s nothing there, there’s nothing there,” he said, adding, “I’m asking for a broader look.”

The department’s chief water-rights engineer, Jeanne Goodman, recommended granting the permits for the project and for construction camps that will temporarily house hundreds of workers.

The company, previously known as TransCanada, announced its name change May 3.

Keystone XL would carry crude oil from tar-sands in Alberta through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. It would connect with an existing pipeline network at Steele City, Neb.

In South Dakota the route would run through Harding, Butte, Perkins, Meade, Pennington, Haakon, Jones, Lyman and Tripp counties.

TC Energy announced in early May the 2019 construction season had been missed for Keystone XL.

That came after U.S. District Judge Brian Morris halted most work on the project in February, saying the environmental impact statement wasn’t adequate. A two-judge appeals panel in March upheld his ruling.

TC Energy wants to draw up to 167 million gallons of water per year from the Cheyenne, White and Bad rivers in western South Dakota.

The proposed work camps would be on various properties belonging to Wink Cattle Co., whose owner is Dean Wink of Howes, a former speaker of the South Dakota House, and to Tom and Lori Wilson of Buffalo. They would draw water from wells.

Testifying Wednesday by telephone, opponent Elizabeth Lone Eagle of Howes said “absolutely no tribal preservation officer participated” in the cultural survey work for the project.

The route doesn’t cross any current reservation land in South Dakota.

A treaty between the federal government and tribal people originally designated as the Great Sioux Reservation all land in western Dakota Territory, starting at the east bank of the Missouri River. The area later was reduced to smaller separate reservations.

James Moore, a Sioux Falls lawyer representing TC Energy, cited a list of reasons why the board shouldn’t grant the discovery motions. Among his points were state laws and board rules don’t require pre-hearing discovery.

Moore said allowing discovery would set “a brand-new precedent” for the board’s hearings.

Noem’s office presented legislation weeks after the bill-filing deadline for the 2019 session that resulted in lawmakers passing two measures by wide margins.

Her office worked with TransCanada officials but didn’t consult with any of the nine tribal governments with reservations in South Dakota.

The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council in turn banned Noem from the Pine Ridge reservation last week. The governor told reporters Wednesday she respects tribal sovereignty and won’t go where she’s not welcome.

The board hearing was scheduled to resume Wednesday afternoon.

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