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Dakota Rural Action Calls on SD PUC to Investigate Keystone I Pipeline Safety

October 27, 2010

The following is the text of Dakota Rural Action’s press release (the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has already approved Keystone XL):

Recently, DRA called on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and our Congressional Delegation to take strong action to insure the safety of people living along the Keystone 1 pipeline in Eastern South Dakota. This pipeline travels through 10 counties in eastern South Dakota.

The letter to the PUC asked for a hearing to discuss concerns about steel from Welspun, a supplier with a record of supplying substandard steel pipe to other pipelines, and recent concerns about the ability of the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to adequately protect the public from pipeline spills and disasters.

Letters were also sent to the offices of Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Senators Tim Johnson and John Thune asking them to ensure that PHMSA conducts further testing and analysis to affirm the safety of the Keystone I pipeline.

The PUC responded with a letter saying, “the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is charged with the role of rule promulgation and enforcement [concerning] safety and construction jurisdiction… of interstate pipelines.”

“It appears the PUC missed our point,” said Kent Moeckly, a landowner crossed by the Keystone I pipeline and member of DRA, “We weren’t asking them to challenge PHMSA’s regulatory authority, but to use their position as South Dakota elected officials to bring public attention to an important issue. Heck, they should invite PHMSA to come and tell us what they’re doing about this.”

PHMSA is the federal agency in charge of overseeing the 2.3 million miles of pipelines in the U.S. This summer a string of reports about crude oil pipeline disasters have called into question the ability of this federal agency to protect the public. Some of those national disasters are:

· On June 11th, a Salt Lake City oil pipeline leaked an estimated 33,000 gallons of oil into a nearby creek;

· On July 26th, a tar-sands oil pipeline ruptured near Marshall, Michigan spilling over 800,000 gallons into the Talmadge and Kalamazoo Rivers, cited as one of the worst spills in Midwest history and believed to be caused by corroded and weakened steel;

· On September 9th, another Canadian crude oil pipeline leaked over 250,000 gallons in Romeoville, Illinois.

DRA feels it is in the best interest of those crossed by the Keystone pipeline, as well as all South Dakotans, that this matter at least be addressed by the PUC since PHMSA’s reliability has been called into question.

This summer Plains Justice released a report, (Use of Substandard Steel by the Pipeline Industry from 2007 to 2009) based on thousands of PHMSA documents, found that Welspun Corp. Ltd. supplied a significant amount of defective steel to a number of large pipelines across the nation. Pipelines owned by two of the companies failed multiple safety tests, prompting PHMSA to require the removal of hundreds of miles of pipeline segments.

TransCanada received about half of the steel used on the Keystone I pipeline from Welspun during the period it was supplying defective steel to other pipeline companies. However, according to the Plains Justice report, PHMSA did not undertake an industry-wide investigation on other pipelines that may have received defective Welspun steel, including Keystone I.

Dakota Rural Action would like to see the South Dakota PUC take this kind of pro-active approach to pipeline safety in our state.

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