PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Will man-camps be safe or dangerous along the route the Keystone XL crude-oil pipeline would take through South Dakota?
That question dominated testimony Friday to the state Water Management Board. The answers depended on who was speaking.
The board is deciding whether to grant permits to TC Energy for constructing and testing the 313 miles of underground pipe and seven pump stations in western South Dakota.
The route runs through Harding, Butte, Perkins, Meade, Pennington, Haakon, Jones, Lyman and Tripp counties.
TC Energy, formerly known as TransCanada, wants to build the line from Hardisty, Alberta, through Montana and South Dakota, into Nebraska, where it would connect with a network at Steele City.
The testimony Friday split between women who warned that crimes would increase, especially against women, when the pipeline’s work camps opened, and the ranchers who plan to sell water to the project.
The project already has a construction permit from the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.
The water-permits hearing Friday marked the ninth day of testimony to the Water Management Board. Chairman Jim Hutmacher of Oacoma tried to keep witnesses flowing.
There will be a fourth round of testimony January 13 and 14. “If we don’t do it then, we’re probably into late February,” Hutmacher said. The current plan is to use the Matthew Training Center at 523 E. Capitol Avenue in Pierre those January days.
Bruce Ellison, a lawyer representing Dakota Rural Action, said he would see whether Governor Kristi Noem would be able to voluntarily testify.
The board would need several more days to work on its findings of fact.
Here are some snapshots from Friday witnesses:
Kate Finn, a Colorado-based lawyer for First Peoples Worldwide, said she specializes in violence against indigenous women and economic development for tribes. Finn told Jennifer Baker, the lawyer representing the Yankton Sioux Tribe, that man camps affect local communities.
Finn said there’s generally a rise in crime in the area that accompanies the arrival of workers. “The impacts of crime last in that community for a very long time,” Finn said. “When they leave, the impacts stay.”
She cited a 2019 federal report that looked at crimes in the Bakken oil fields from 2006 through 2012. The report compared oil-producing and non-oil-producing counties in North Dakota and Montana. One of its key points was the rate of violent victimization increased by 70 percent in the oil communities while the rate went down in the non-oil counties.
During that same period, victimizations of blacks and Native Americans were 2.5 times higher than for whites, and women had a 54 percent increase in unlawful sexual contact. “The impacts of that crime will remain in those communities forever,” Finn said.
Anita Luchese, who said she lives in rural northern California, said she wanted to provide the board with sealed testimony but it wasn’t allowed. “I am a survivor of abuse and trafficking,” she said.
Luchese said she was raped the first time by a non-native man. She was unconscious. Another man with whom she later lived trafficked her. “He trained me not to cry by hitting me every time a tear came out,” she said. She graphically described the blood and bruises and bite marks and other damage, including having her toe nails pulled out.
“Thank you Miss Luchese for your bravery,” attorney Baker said. No one in the room asked any questions.
Dean Wink, who ranches near Howes, said he spent about $125,000 on the well that serves his place, eight sets of neighbors and the truck wash-out he built nearby. He’s one of the ranchers that TransCanada contacted about being a source of water for the Keystone XL work.
Wink said he went on a TransCanada-sponsored bus tour in 2010 to see a work-camp in the Dickinson, North, Dakota, area. He recalled a fence around the site and described the place as very quiet and very clean. Illegal drugs weren’t permitted. Alcohol was allowed only in the workers’ rooms.
His state permit currently allows 39 gallons per minute. He’s applied for 70. Most of his neighbors use his water for their cattle; he meters how much each neighbor uses and they pay him. The washout operates on an honor-box system: $50 for the first hour and $5 for every five minutes after.
“Rural South Dakota,” his lawyer, Matt Naasz, said.
“Absolutely,” Wink replied.
Tom Wilson is the other rancher who’s asking for an expansion of his current state permit. Wilson said he ranches about 10 miles west of Buffalo in Harding County. “It’s about 130 years in the family,” he said about the place he bought from his father.