Landowners, tribes to intervene in Keystone’s SD permit renewal

Landowners, tribes and environmentalists are going to be able to participate in TransCanada’s permit renewal process for the part of the Keystone XL pipeline that runs through South Dakota.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission granted “party status” on Tuesday to 40 landowners and tribal members from Nebraska and South Dakota who have aligned themselves with Bold Nebraska, a nonprofit group aimed at defeating Keystone.

Pipeline developer TransCanada had to reapply for a second permit for the $5.4 billion oil sands project after its first permit, granted in 2010, expired earlier this year.

Those granted intervenor status cheered the move on Wednesday during a press conference and said they are optimistic about their chances of blocking a second permit for Keystone in the state.

“There was no chance to stop Keystone back then,” Paul Seamans, a South Dakota landowner, said on a call Wednesday.

“Things have changed drastically. We really think that there is not a need for Keystone XL anymore,” Seamans added, referring to increased oil and gas production in the U.S.

Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, said the campaign against the oil sands pipeline in Nebraska and South Dakota has gained more allies over the last four years.

“Now we think we can stop it,” Kleeb said of Bold Nebraska's chances of blocking a second South Dakota permit for Keystone.

“Oil production in the U.S. is up, and last time, they clearly described in the permit that oil production was going down,” she said.

Kleeb added that tribal nations were not as involved in the first permitting process for Keystone, but now they are a “strong and united” force against it.

She said the 40 individuals granted “party status”  want to stop recertification of the permit altogether.

Opponents also argued on Wednesday that the political and social climate of the country and South Dakota has shifted against the Keystone pipeline.

A recent poll conducted by South Dakota’s Argus Leader, however, found that 60 percent of voters in the state support construction of the pipeline, while 30 percent oppose it.

Green group was also granted “party status” by the utilities commission on Tuesday.

The commission is expected to hold the hearing on TransCanada’s permit process during late winter or early spring of next year.

TransCanada said it “accepted” the commission’s decision.

“TransCanada welcomes a thorough vetting of all issues of interest to the commission and participation by those who have direct interest in those issues,” said Shawn Howard, spokesman for TransCanada.  

“As we said when we made our submission, while Keystone XL was a good project for South Dakotans in 2010 it is an even better project today,” Howard added.

The pipeline’s future is currently in limbo, as the State Department is waiting for litigation over the project’s route in Nebraska to wrap up.

The Nebraska Supreme Court isn’t expected to rule on Keystone’s future until later this year, meaning a final decision from President Obama likely won’t come until sometime next year.

If the landowners and tribal members are successful in blocking TransCanada’s permit renew for Keystone in South Dakota, the administration could possibly put the decision process on hold again.