This story has been updated.
PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem criticized South Dakota news outlets Thursday for failing to report on economic damage caused by President Biden’s decision to revoke the permit that President Trump had issued allowing the Keystone XL pipeline to cross the U.S.-Canada border.
The Republican governor, who traveled to other states to campaign for Trump’s re-election, made her remarks during a weekly news conference she holds during the legislative session.
As she spoke, her communications director, Ian Fury, distributed copies of a February 1, 2021, Washington Examiner news story that looked at the shutdown’s effects on a Midland hotel and a Milesville fuel station in west-central South Dakota.
Fury had raised the same point in a tweet earlier this week.
“I want to have a candid conversation with all of you,” Noem said, reading from notes. “This article was written by an organization and entity out of Washington, D.C. Why is that? Why is it that no South Dakota reporters covered the real-life impacts of the loss of the pipeline?
“If I had taken an action that had ended hundreds or thousands of jobs in South Dakota with the stroke of a pen, I know for a fact that all of you would have covered it. I know that if former President Trump had taken an action that ended hundreds or thousands of jobs for South Dakota families, you would have covered that — and that’s how it should be.
“But frankly, I would expect all of you to treat this new administration exactly the same way. Let’s make sure we hold them to the same standard. You calls balls and strikes, you don’t pick a side. Now I believe in a fair press, a free press, I don’t expect you to take my side on every issue — I know that’s not your job. But by the same token, you shouldn’t take the other side.
“In my years of public service and especially this past year, I’ve realized that the media most often shows their bias by what they choose not to cover. And in this instance, the lack of coverage from South Dakota reporters and media speaks volumes,” she said.
Responding to a question from KELOLAND News, Noem acknowledged business owners were free to make decisions based on the permit, but the effects of Biden rescinding it should be reported too.
“I say that absolutely business owners every day take risks. They take risks to provide for their families and to put food on the table and also to take care of their customers. What I’m saying though is their story deserves to be told. And that really is the reality of what we’re dealing with today,” Noem said.
“Many times we don’t tell their stories about what the real consequences are of government actions, of what presidents decide, what governors decide, and we should tell the consequences on both sides of the issue, not just on one,” she continued.
Noem also said she supports Keystone XL-related legislation in Congress that’s backed by U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson, the Republican who won the House seat Noem left in 2018 when she was elected governor.
The project would have carried oil from the tar sands fields of Alberta, Canada, through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to the Gulf Coast for export.
“I believe we should prioritize American energy, all forms of energy,” Noem said. “I’m not picking oil and gas over wind, solar and nuclear or any form of energy. We have proven that these pipelines are the right policy on safety. They’re safer than the way we are moving oil today over rail and over the road.
“We’ve proven that it’s better for the environment, there’s less spills that happen through pipelines than happened through trucks and rail and road. And also that it is going to be much more economical and efficient. It will allow us to utilize resources that we have here domestically rather than relying on foreign countries that often aren’t very friendly to provide for our energy supplies.
“South Dakota is heavily energy dependent. It’s pretty cold in the wintertime, it’s pretty hot in the summertime, and it’s a long ways to drive anywhere. So I anticipate with the decisions the Biden administration has made recently, we can expect to see three-, four-dollar gasoline within the next year or two, and that would definitely impact every single family,” she said.
Congressman Johnson on February 2 had tweeted, “For years Keystone XL played by the rules — earning dozens of state & federal permits. The rule of law shouldn’t be destroyed with the swipe of the President’s pen. @RepArmstrongND bill reforms this system and would save American jobs along the way. I’m proud to join this effort.”
U.S. Representative Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota has offered federal legislation that calls for Congress to allow the pipeline to cross the border in Phillips County, Montana, and says a presidential permit isn’t needed.
Johnson joined South Dakota’s two U.S. senators, Republicans John Thune and Mike Rounds, in writing a letter January 19 to President-elect Biden urging that the Keystone XL project be allowed to continue.
Noem told reporters she didn’t have a total amount of how much the pipeline would have brought to South Dakota but pumping stations were being built and property taxes would have been assessed on the pipeline and the pumping stations. She said the taxes would have helped fund schools and roads in those rural areas.
There also would have been hundreds of jobs during construction and a few permanent jobs, and money would have been spent at restaurants, gas stations and other businesses, she said. “A complete dollar amount I don’t have, but the ripple effect of a project like this would have brought revenue to individuals, to families and to the states, and very importantly to these rural counties, to their roads and to their school districts,” she said.
Tribal governments and grassroots groups in South Dakota strongly opposed the pipeline. Noem received legislative support from Republican super-majorities for several controversial laws related to the project including making riot-boosting a crime. In South Dakota the pipeline’s route would have run entirely through land the federal government had once granted by treaty as the Great Sioux Reservation.
TC Energy, then known as TransCanada, proposed it in 2008 during the final year President Bush, a Republican, was in the White House. President Obama, a Democrat, in 2012 turned down the company’s application to cross the border into the U.S. President Trump in 2017 approved it. President Biden stopped it.
State Senate Democrat leader Troy Heinert of Mission, a Rosebud Sioux Tribe member, told reporters earlier Thursday that he was “pleased” it had been halted.
“President Biden made a promise that’s what he was going to do and he did it,” Heinert said. “The Keystone XL pipeline has been going on for a dozen years now, back and forth. And I remember some of the bills I brought — you know, their argument always changed as to why it’s needed.
“At first it was, ‘Oil prices are too high and we’re going to lower the price of oil.’ Oil’s trading at forty to sixty bucks a barrel right now, and in previous testimony they said oil needed to be over a hundred dollars a barrel for Keystone to be profitable.
“I think the pandemic has changed the need for crude products. We were never going to use the tar sands coming out of Alberta domestically anyway. So I think it was the smart thing to do. Our country’s producing more oil now than they ever have domestically and I think there are smarter ways to go about it. It’s just unneeded and unnecessary. I’m glad to see Keystone was rescinded,” he said.
Heinert said he understood the effect on the Midland hotel where construction workers were staying. “I feel bad for them, but those were temporary, they were temporary stays anyway,” he said. “You know, rural America is struggling, and putting a unnecessary tar sands-filled pipeline in isn’t going to help rural America in the long run.”