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Sunday, August 22, 2010

West River More Accepting of Keystone XL Pipeline

As that Sioux Falls paper revisits South Dakota's East-West divide, Public Utilities Commissioner Gary Hanson says TransCanada had an easier time getting West River landowners to submit to easements for the Keystone XL pipeline that the company had in East River along its Keystone route:

"East River, there were far more challenges regarding acquisitions of easements. That went much more smoothly West River," Hanson says. "West River, there was a pragmatic discussion and concerned questions, not the generally excitable atmosphere we had East River" [Peter Harriman, "East-West River: The Great Divide," that Sioux Falls paper, 2010.08.22].

Hmph. West River landowners must be more inclined to swallow the corporate line that oil leaks are just a normal part of business.

Speaking of which:

A small break in a BP pipeline that has leaked at least 1,700 gallons of petroleum into sewers in the northwestern Indiana city of Hammond could take days or weeks to pinpoint and fix, officials said Wednesday.

"We're at the point now where BP is literally trying to locate what could be a pinhole-sized leak," Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott said [Tom Coyne, "Officials: BP Fuel Leak Could Last Days, Weeks," AP via Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 2010.08.19].

Sure, 1700 gallons is a small spill... until it happens on your land, or pollutes your well. And that's from a pinhole flaw. How much oil will spill out of a similar defect in a Keystone pipeline pumping hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil under high pressure each day? And West River landowners are o.k. with this?

Actually, it might make sense that TransCanada could snap up pipeline easements more easily in West River. Here in East River, the Keystone pipeline runs under cropland where owners run lots of heavy plows and combines that I might be nervous about dragging across a thin metal tube filled with toxic combustible material. Out in West River, the heaviest thing a rancher might run across the pipeline is his pickup or a really big bull.


  1. Cory,

    It's just not true that West River landowners were not as concerned about Keystone XL as East River landowners were about Keystone I. I say that as someone who has talked with people from both groups.

    In my opinion, the biggest difference is that many West River landowners saw how hard the East River landowners fought the Keystone I pipeline but still lost and figured there was no way West River landowners could stop Keystone XL. Why would they think the PUC would reject Keystone XL when the Commissioners already approved Keystone I?

    If you think you've already lost the big battle before it even starts, it changes what you fight for and how you do it.

    In addition, some West River landowners have a different relationship with the oil industry because of the possiblity or certainty(depending on where they are) that there might be oil on their land. That's not there for someone in East River.

  2. County commissioners in Western SD only look at the potential tax revenue they assume will fall like manna from heaven without ever considering the costs if their only source of water is forever poisoned.

    Some policy positions are driven by blissful, willful ignorance and shortsighted greed.

  3. Could the difference also be that the PUC adopted the treatment of all landowners as the better treatment demanded by the federal landlord west river; while the PUC adopted a lower private landowner treatment for the earlier East River Keystone I?

  4. Kelly Fuller8/23/2010 8:53 AM


    The Commissioners' conditions on Keystone XL could be having an effect on West River landowners now, but couldn't have before the Commissioners approved the pipeline and issued conditions. I'd also be curious which exact conditions on Keystone XL you're referring to as being a "higher standard" than Keystone I.

    During the Keystone XL proceedings at the PUC, far fewer West River landowners intervened to protect their own interests than East River landowners did on Keystone I - not exactly a sign of faith in the process. That's not surprising given what East River landowners who intervened on Keystone I had to say about their experience at the PUC.

    Also different for Keystone XL - formation of a landowners' group that directly negotiated terms with TransCanada.

  5. there are also probably way fewer landowners who could wage the battle as well. and like kelly said a lot of them are already friends of the energy industry because of the uranium mining in that part of the state...and they're so close to the energy sacrifice areas of WY, MT & ND


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