CHET BROKAW Associated Press Writer PIERRE, S.D.
The state Public Utilities Commission has started the formal process of considering TransCanada Keystone Pipeline's application to build a second crude oil pipeline through South Dakota. TransCanada already is building a pipeline through eastern South Dakota. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is designed to run 313 miles through western South Dakota as part of a project to deliver Alberta tar sands crude oil to Gulf Coast terminals and refineries in Texas. The PUC on Tuesday allowed its staff to hire consultants to help evaluate the project. The three-member commission also assessed a filing fee not to exceed $660,700 on TransCanada Keystone to help cover the cost of the case. TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, owned by affiliates of TransCanada Corp. and ConocoPhillips Co., filed its siting application with the PUC March 12. People who want to take part as formal parties in the case have until May 11 to file as interveners. Forms for interveners are available on the PUC's Web site. The PUC also has scheduled informal public hearings on the project for noon Monday, April 27, in Winner; 7 p.m. April 27 in Philip; and 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, in Buffalo. At those hearings, TransCanada will present information and respond to questions and comments from the public. The PUC will schedule a formal hearing in the case later. Based on the hearing in the first pipeline, issues in the Keystone XL case likely will include worries by farmers and ranchers about the pipeline's impact on their land, the chance of leaks and the threat to underground water supplies. TransCanada's 220-mile pipeline through eastern South Dakota is part of a project to deliver Canadian crude oil to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma. The new project, Keystone XL, would deliver up to 900,000 barrels of crude oil a day through a 36-inch pipeline running from near Hardisty, Alberta, to existing Texas terminals near Port Arthur and Houston. The pipeline would enter South Dakota from Montana in Harding County and then run through Butte, Perkins, Meade, Pennington, Haakon, Jones, Lyman and Tripp counties before entering Nebraska. The South Dakota portion is estimated to cost $920 million. The company wants to begin construction in 2011 and have the pipeline operating by 2012. Had the project been operational in January 2008, it would have paid about $10.3 million in property taxes in nine counties and 13 school districts crossed by the pipeline, according to TransCanada Keystone's application. The project not only needs a PUC siting permit but also a presidential permit from the U.S. State Department, which is conducting an environmental study of the project's impact. The proposed pipeline also needs various federal and state permits, including permits for crossing streams and wetlands.