Keystone Pipeline on PUC’s agenda tomorrow morning because of outdated law. There ought to be an amendment.

From the Public Utilities Commission’s hearing agenda tomorrow, a portion of the re-hearing of the Keystone Pipeline. And we should be ashamed of it:

Hydrocarbon 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 Attorney: Kristen Edwards)

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 intervention deadline of October 15, 2014, was set. The Commission granted intervention to several parties. On October 30, 2014, Keystone filed a motion seeking to define the scope of discovery by limiting discovery to issues related to whether the project continues to meeting the conditions on which the permit was granted, as provided by SDCL § 49-41B-27. Many of the parties filed responses to Keystone’s Motion. On November 4, 2014, the Commission issued a Prehearing Scheduling Conference Order setting a prehearing scheduling telephonic conference to be held by Commission Counsel on November 13, 2014, in an effort to reach a consensus of the parties on an appropriate procedural schedule for the docket. Commission Counsel held the prehearing teleconference as scheduled with most parties attending, but a consensus on an appropriate schedule could not be reached among the parties.

TODAY, shall the Commission grant Keystone’s Motion to Define the Scope of Discovery Under SDCL § 49-41B-27? AND, shall the Commission issue a procedural schedule? OR, how shall the Commission proceed?

Read it here.

Tomorrow’s hearing is not the final hearing on whether the pipeline is granted a continued permit at the state level for the project delayed on an embarrassing manner by the Obama Administration.  What tomorrow consists of is a decision on the scope of discovery for the permit renewal.

Under State law, as provided by SDCL § 49-41B-27, discovery on the renewal should be limited to to issues related to whether the project continues to meeting the conditions on which the permit was granted. According to state law:

49-41B-27.   Construction, expansion, and improvement of facilities. Utilities which have acquired a permit in accordance with the provisions of this chapter may proceed to improve, expand, or construct the facility for the intended purposes at any time, subject to the provisions of this chapter; provided, however, that if such construction, expansion and improvement commences more than four years after a permit has been issued, then the utility must certify to the Public Utilities Commission that such facility continues to meet the conditions upon which the permit was issued.

Read that here.

Tomorrow’s hearing is to settle the arguments between the pro and con sides just how wide-ranging the scope should be.The fact that we have to have a permit continuation hearing in the first place is shameful.

Unfortunately, and solely because of the delay at the federal level, this additional regulatory roadblock dating back to 1977 is thrust upon Transcanada at the state level requiring them to re-argue what has already been decided.

Forty years ago, the permitting process was much more expedient, and four years would have been an eternity not to break ground. Now, “A.K.” (After Keystone) four years means the ink on the federal government’s reply hasn’t been set to paper yet.

Frankly, that’s no way to run a government.

It may be too late to address this issue for Transcanada, but in the 2015 legislative session, Legislators should take a good, hard look at changes to this nearly 40 year old law in light of the regulatory hurdles and the ‘permitting purgatory’ imposed upon energy production by the federal government. If there is this much inertia at the federal level, and they’re going to drag out the process for five and six years at a time, that needs to be taken into consideration at the state level, and this law should be amended.

Given that there is now precedent for the federal process to drag on ad infinitum, if utility companies are going to be subject to this kind of regulatory environment this outdated law should be changed to grant permitting for a minimum of ten years, if not longer, for companies to start construction.

To force them to go through a state permitting process twice before they even break ground is an onerous regulatory burden at the state level, and just as bad as what they’re being subjected to by the federal government.

At the state level, we like to think we’re better than that. This next legislative session, it’s time to prove it.

14 Replies to “Keystone Pipeline on PUC’s agenda tomorrow morning because of outdated law. There ought to be an amendment.”

  1. BK

    Interesting idea Pat. I enjoyed reading your take on it. Past legislatures been loathe to make many changes to this statute. Perhaps they’ll be more inclined to do so in the future.

  2. Charlie Hoffman

    It is truly sad that States now are being forced into re-Writing good common sense legislation having merit in keeping natural resource projects moving along because the Federal government is doing everything it can to kill them.

  3. Kevin W. Nelson

    I agree with everything that was said. North American energy production has been stifled at every turn by anti-Growth zealots, starting with the Community Organizer-in-Chief on down.

  4. Anon.

    Here is an interesting thought. Mike Rounds campaigned on building the pipeline cause Trans Canada made a couple of nice donations. Rounds’ son, the analyst, hired because of daddy, will make sure the regulatory agency approves it. What is more shameful? The 2nd go around, or the blatant slush of political graft.

    1. RL

      Because anyone related to someone gets their job based on payola? Based on what?

      Grow up. It’s a small state. Everyone is related to everyone here.

  5. Andy

    I am a hardcore believer in individual rights and especially private property rights. I find it difficult to accept the fact that our state law permits a foreign corporation to use eminent domain, with the full support of government, to force a landowner to sell an easement against his will, in order to build a pipeline for the purpose of that foreign corporation’s profit. This is not a “public use.” The same people who screamed and protested the US Supreme Court and the Kelo v. City of New London decision now champion the efforts of eminent domain in this case. Build the pipeline! I support it! But meet the price of the seller and alter your route if even one landowner refuses to sell. You cannot stand for individual rights and support the Keystone XL without being a Hypocrite of the highest order!

    1. Old Guard

      Many of the people who shout the loudest about “individual rights”and “states’ rights” and “Constitution” often abandon their basis for having them when there’s a profit involved.

      1. Anonymous

        And many who claim to care about immigrants and foreigners sure turn into racists once they can cloak it in “foreign corporation”.

    2. Anonymous

      The hate for all things “foreign” amazes me “Andy”. This is 2014–get with the times.

      Yesterday’s overt racism cloaked in today’s “foreign” dog whistle language is truly ugly.

      There are plenty of trucks on our highways (bulit by eminent domain on formerly private land ) that are either owned by foreign corporations, carry foreign goods, or where the profits go to foreign corporations. Why aren’t you Andy, out here trying to stop them?

      Take you neo-racist attitudes somehwhere else.

      1. Andy

        Nice try. I can use those highways when I drive and so can you, that is public use. As for “neo-racist attitudes” it seems to me you must come from the Barack Obama school of community activism. Attack me if you want to, I don’t care. You don’t know me, who I am, or my character. I am just a person with an opinion on individual rights. I don’t work for government, I don’t make a career out of politics, and I wouldn’t dare try to attempt to silence anyone with personal attacks as vile as race-baiting or name calling. So I would ask that if you cannot intellectually argue my position then you should refrain from personal attacks.

        1. Anonymous

          And the farmer can farm his [private] land without interruption while the Keystone pipeline goes about bettering the economy.

          Unlike power lines that create obstacles on his land, and he has no right to use the power line, and the profits likely flow to foreigners & foreign corporations.

          This isn’t about private rights v. public rights v. eminent domain–it’s about an irrational fear of “foreigners”. How do we know this? I’ve provided two present examples that refute every complaint you have about takings–what you’re left with is “foreign”.