Tomorrow the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will meet in Pierre for its regularly scheduled meeting. The agenda is quite full and includes the following high level items on its agenda:
- 1 consumer report status
- 6 Electric judgements to vote on
- 2 Gas and Electric judgements to vote on
- 2 Telecommunications judgements to vote on
- 1 Hydrocarbon Pipeline judgement to vote on
The final item in the agenda is what has been getting a lot of attention. It is in this last agenda item that the PUC may decide the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline in SD (at least for the near-term).
Here is the whole agenda item relating to the Keystone XL pipeline
1. HP14-001 In the Matter of the Petition of TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP for Order Accepting Certification of Permit Issued in Docket HP09-001 to Construct the Keystone XL Pipeline (Staff Analysts: Brian Rounds, Darren Kearney; Staff Attorneys: Kristen Edwards, Karen Cremer)
On September 15, 2014, the Commission received a filing from TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP (Keystone) seeking an order accepting certification of the permit issued in HP09-001. The Commission issued an Amended Final Decision and Order granting a permit to Keystone on June 29, 2010. Because it has been at least four years since the permit was issued, Keystone now seeks an order accepting certification, per SDCL 49-41B-27. An evidentiary hearing was held from July 27 to August 5, 2015. A final decision has not been issued by the Commission. On November 9, 2015, several intervenors filed a Joint Motion to Dismiss. Within the Joint Motion to Dismiss, a motion was also made to revoke the permit issued in HP09-001. On November 16, 2015, the Commission issued an Order for and Notice of Motion Hearing setting the intervenors’ Joint Motion to Dismiss for hearing at the Commission’s regular meeting on December 22, 2015.
On December 18, 2015, Dakota Rural Action (DRA) filed Dakota Rural Action’s Motion to Supplement Administrative Record. In its Motion to Supplement Administrative Record, DRA asks the Commission to take administrative notice of a Notice of Probable Violation filed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and supplement the administrative record with the same.
TODAY, shall the Commission take administrative notice as requested by DRA? AND, shall the Commission grant DRA’s Motion to Supplement Administrative Record? AND, shall the Commission grant the Joint Motion to Dismiss? AND, shall the Commission grant the Motion to Revoke the permit issued in HP09-001?
If you look at the TODAY statement above, there are four questions the PUC has to make a judgement on. The big question that both sides are keeping their eyes on is whether the PUC will allow TransCanada to keep its permit issued back in 2010. Back on November 6, 2015, the Obama administration officially declined the federal permit for Keystone XL. One of the conditions of the state permit says that the permit will only be issued if federal permits are accepted. But then the original state permit issued in 2010 was done without a federal permit in place, so supporters of the pipeline say that should not impact any decision to withdraw the permit at this time.
The other interesting question has to do with Dakota Rural Action’s (DRA) Motion to Supplement Administrative Record. This stems from the recent news that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is fining TransCanada for corrosion due to not following safety rules with the original Keystone. I’m betting the DRA hopes this decision will make it easier for the PUC to withdraw the permit for Keystone XL altogether.
Some people may wonder why this was still an issue. With Obama denying the federal permit that means Keystone XL is dead right? Well, I’ve talked to a few people on both sides of the issue that say the matter is far from being solved. In 2017 there will be a new US President (that is just a year away). Both sides foresee situations where a new President (possibly from either party) would give into pressure and work to expedite the pipeline. Keeping state permits open would help TransCanada in such a situation.
The meeting will begin at 9:30 am CST tomorrow in Pierre. It can also be listened to live online on the PUC Website. The audio from the previous KeystoneXL PUC hearings during July 27-31, and August 3-4, can be reached on the SDPB Statehouse website.
Opponents of the pipeline will be attending the meeting and have set up a Facebook event with details. They will be serving soup and frybread in the Capitol Lake Visitor Center afterwards for what they hope is a victory celebration.
PS. I had planned to attend the hearing and promised a couple of people I would be there to blog about it. But since I have now been diagnosed with Bronchitis I don’t feel that would be the responsible thing to do.