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Keystone XL Risks in South Dakota

April 26, 2012

Dakota Rural Action, a Plains Justice ally that we represented in South Dakota pipeline siting proceedings before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, just issued this press release:

On April 11, the Nebraska legislature passed legislation, LB 1161, allowing the controversial Keystone XL project to change the original route and avoid the Sandhills region. The unstable, sandy soil and high water table of the Ogallala Aquifer led many Republican and Democrat elected officials to question the wisdom of the project and call on TransCanada, the operation of the project, to reroute the pipeline.

The new proposed route adds another 100 miles to pipeline but still intersects the Ogallala Aquifer. A high water table and sandy soil also exist in southern South Dakota, yet due to strong support of the project by South Dakota Republicans, TransCanada was not forced to reroute in the state.

“A spill by the Keystone XL pipeline into our highly permeable soil that sits just above the Ogallala Aquifer or into one of our rivers that feeds millions of people their drinking water will be devastating to South Dakota’s Ag and Tourism economy,” said John Harter, DRA member and landowner crossed by the pipeline. “This is a great risk just to get this tar sands oil to the Gulf Coast so it can be exported to the world market for top dollar.”

TransCanada must reapply for the national permit before construction can begin. The final landowner easements in South Dakota are currently being acquired by TransCanada with condemnation proceedings in eminent domain court.

There are more issues that need to be addressed such as the Emergency Response Plan, the document used by local residents and first responders in the case of a spill, should be made available for public and local emergency personnel review. Currently, TransCanada must only provide a finalized ERP to emergency workers when construction has started, without any expert or third party input. The public should be able to review and comment on the plans prior to construction because they have intimate knowledge of the land and will likely be the first people to respond if something goes wrong.

Dakota Rural Action has been working with farmers and ranchers impacted by the proposed project since 2008 to ensure that if the pipeline were built in South Dakota, that our land, water and resources are protected.

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