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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

PUC Modifies Keystone XL Construction Conditions

Not a bad day in Pierre yesterday. The Public Utilities Commission made some changes to the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. However, rather than giving me cause to rage against the machine, Commissioners Hanson, Johnson, and Kolbeck appear to have found some reasonable compromises to make most parties mostly content. Among the changes:
  • TransCanada will cover reasonable costs of removing fossils or changing the pipeline route to avoid damaging them. Apparently the route goes through T-rex territory, so this is a big deal.
  • TransCanada doesn't have to report every single spill of hazardous materials to affected landowners during construction. TransCanada wanted to exempt spills up to five gallons; the PUC set the minimum reportable spill at a pint.
Paul Blackburn, a lawyer for Plains Justice who defends landowner rights, sounds like he's o.k. with the fossil provisions. On spills, I'd say there's a big difference between five gallons and a pint. I could still do without Keystone XL altogether... but at least the PUC is keeping some reasonable conditions on the constuction.


  1. Thanks for noticing, Cory. You are one blogger I can count on to both give me heck when you think I'm wrong, and say thanks when you think I get it right. Most of the blogosphere only does one or the other.

  2. Cory,

    The news is even better than that.

    In addition, landowners will be notified if cultural resources are found on their land, as they were going to be originally. TransCanada asked the PUC to change the conditions so they wouldn't have to notify landowners.

    Most importantly, TransCanada's request for changes to the approval conditions had language that would have put landowners on the hook for paying not just for excavation of fossils found on their land but also for costs of re-routing the pipeline to go around fossils (hugely expensive) or for costs of work delays caused by fossil discovery.

    As the landowners didn't ask to have this pipeline put on their properties, it's hardly fair to ask them to pay to protect their own private property rights.

    The Commissioners recognized that. A big thank you to them.

    It's not completely a done deal, however, with the fossil issues. PUC General Counsel John Smith will be drafting the actual language of the conditions, the parties will discuss it, and then it will become a Commission order.

    Kelly Fuller
    Plains Justice

  3. Kelly, that's great news! Thanks for the additional information. And Commissioner Johnson, thank you... and you're welcome!

  4. The request to allow spills of up to 5 gallons to go unreported sounds like a request to allow contractors to change engine oil and dump the used oil on the prairie. Most heavy engines contain around 5 gallons of oil. The 1 pint requirement will allow them to avoid reporting every ruptured hydraulic hose.


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