For immediate Release: APRIL 9, 2015
Sabrina King, Dakota Rural Action Keystone XL Organizer, (605) 939-0527.
Dallas Goldtooth, IEN KXL Organizer, (507) 412-7609
TRIBES AND LANDOWNERS FIGHT TO BE HEARD IN SOUTH DAKOTA PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION (PUC) HEARINGS ON KXL PIPELINE
LATE BREAKING NEWS: The South Dakota PUC scheduled an “Ad hoc” meeting for today, 3:30 p.m. CST, April 9th, 2015 to hear a Motion to Reconsider filed today by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe regarding a decision reached last week by the PUC which Rosebud alleges deprives them `and other intervenors of Constitutionally protected due process rights. This is in addition to the numerous motions that are slated to be heard by them on April 14th. The Rosebud Motion and more information about today’s hearing may be found at http://www.puc.sd.gov/Dockets/HydrocarbonPipeline/2014/hp14-001.aspx.
Pierre, SD – With the May 2015 evidentiary hearing looming on the recertification of the Keystone XL pipeline permit, several Tribal and landowner parties are questioning the impartiality of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission as it reviews the permit. Since four years elapsed from the time the original permit was issued, TransCanada Keystone LP must certify that the conditions under which the original permit was issued remained the same. Issues are arising over the recertification process; discovery requests and which parties and witnesses may be allowed to participate in the May 5 to 8th, 2015 hearing. A 9:30 a.m., April 14th , 2015 hearing in Pierre, SD is scheduled to resolve some of these issues.
Tensions over the proceedings initially arose back in December 2014 when the Yankton Sioux Tribe filed a motion, which several parties joined, to dismiss TransCanada’s application alleging that the 30 changed conditions TransCanada submitted along with its application constituted a new pipeline and that the entire permit process should have to start over. At the same time, TransCanada was granted a motion to limit the scope of discovery while Yankton’s motion was denied.
“Thirty changed conditions is prima facie evidence that the conditions are not the same. We asked the SD PUC to dismiss this permit recertification back in December 2014 but the Commission ruled against our request, “ says Yankton Tribal member and Ihanktonwan Treaty Council Chair Faith Spotted Eagle. “The PUC said they want to see the evidence and now TransCanada is dragging its feet to provide us with the information we are requesting and is seeking to limit our participation in the evidentiary hearing.”
Tensions escalated when the March 10th deadline essentially ended discovery with many parties feeling that TransCanada had not completely disclosed all the information they had on the 30 changed conditions of the pipeline. Two tribes, Standing Rock Sioux and the Rosebud Sioux both filed motions to address this and amend the SD PUC scheduling order. Standing Rock was denied their motion and Rosebud’s motion was approved.
“Pipeline safety has become a very important issue, with all of the recent spills,” stated Dave Archambault II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “We are very concerned with the potential impact of an oil spill on plants that we still use for medicinal purposes today, as well as the impacts on fish and wildlife, and the threat to our water. The Public Utilities Commission had better take a hard look at these important concerns.”
Paula Antoine, Director of the Sicangu Oyate Land Office for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe said, ” We are disappointed that the SD PUC didn’t recognize our fellow interveners and that it was a small victory. But this project has the potential to have a monumental impact could devastate locally, nationally and globally. We are maintaining our solidarity and commitment to Unci Maka and our people. ”
The stakes over participation in the proceedings appear to be getting higher as the evidentiary hearing approaches. Over 40 parties initially intervened to participate in the SD PUC proceedings but now TransCanada is seeking to exclude over 20 of these individuals, environmental organizations including Bold Nebraska, several South Dakota ranchers who are crossed by the route, and the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (ICOUP) along with limiting Yankton Sioux Tribe’s participation because they allege these parties have not complied with TransCanada’s discovery requests or did not provide “prefiled” testimony by April 2, 2015.
Dakota Rural Action (DRA) and the ICOUP both filed objections to the requirement of having to provide “prefiled” testimony because they allege it does not comply with South Dakota’s civil procedure rules. The TransCanada attorneys claim that SD PUC administrative rules provide for “prefiled” testimony which if not filed by the April 2nd deadline will have the effect of precluding parties from participating in the May evidentiary hearing.
A hearing on TransCanada’s motion to preclude parties from offering witnesses or evidence in the evidentiary hearing,, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s motion for sanctions against TransCanada as well as DRA’s and ICOUP’s objections to “prefiled” testimony, as well as other motions, are scheduled to be heard on April 14th, 2015 before the SD PUC.
“We urge South Dakota citizens to pay attention to these proceedings and urge you to join us in Pierre that day and during the hearing to make sure our voices are heard by these Commissioners. Under South Dakota law, they are charged with safeguarding the health, welfare and environment of South Dakota citizens and balancing development requests that benefit the people of South Dakota. We do not believe this pipeline will benefit the people of South Dakota sufficiently to jeopardize the land and water for our future generations,” said Paul Seamans of Dakota Rural Action.