FORT PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The three members of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission said Thursday they want the full case presented before deciding whether to grant a permit for the proposed Navigator carbon-dioxide pipeline.
The commissioners unanimously rejected a request from Brian Jorde, the lead attorney for landowners opposed to the project, that a permit not be granted.
Jorde’s renewed request came on the seventh day of the hearing, after Navigator had finished presenting its main case.
Commissioner Chris Nelson said it was too soon to decide the matter. “We have learned a lot but there are still things we need to learn,” Nelson said.
Jorde meanwhile had two dozen landowners waiting to testify. Nelson said he wanted to hear from them. Nelson said the commissioners had also put off “a lot of questions” for a Navigator rebuttal witness, Monica Howard, who has yet to testify.
Commissioner Gary Hanson agreed. “I think it’s extremely important to hear from everyone,” he said.
Hanson noted that the commission plans a special hearing August 24-25 on the related question that Navigator raised. The company wants the state commission to override pipeline ordinances that were recently passed in Minnehaha County and Moody County. South Dakota law gives the state commission authority to do that.
PUC chair Kristie Fiegen took a similar view. “The Public Utilities Commission has to make our decision based on facts and evidence,” she said, adding that she doesn’t want the commission to decide “this complex issue” from the bench.
Nelson said he appreciated Hanson’s comment regarding the counties-preemption question. “We absolutely need to move forward and hear from them also in the two days we’ve set aside for that,” Nelson said.
Daniel Janssen of Dell Rapids, one of the landowners who testified Thursday afternoon, said the field the pipeline would cross on his family’s property is currently planted in alfalfa. “The more information I learned, the less I liked this project,” he said.
Janssen (pictured) is a member of the Trent fire department. “I can fight a fire I can see. I can’t see carbon dioxide,” he said.