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CONTACT: Leah Mohr, deputy executive director, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 or (605) 280-4327

South Dakota PUC certifies Keystone XL Pipeline construction permit

PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission today determined that the certification filed by TransCanada Keystone Pipeline to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline in South Dakota is valid. The decision was made by commission members Chris Nelson, Kristie Fiegen and Gary Hanson at a regular PUC meeting in Pierre, S.D., on Jan. 5, 2016.

“State law narrowly defines the certification question we voted on today,” said PUC Chairman Nelson. “This was not a question of whether the permit should have been issued in 2010; rather, it was whether TransCanada filed a valid certification stating that the company can meet the conditions attached to the original permit. Opponents failed to prove that the certification was not valid. We all understand, however, that the pipeline cannot be constructed without a presidential permit,” Nelson continued.

“My vote today to accept Keystone XL’s certification takes proper account of the controlling law enacted by the legislature that guides our actions in this docket,” stated Kristie Fiegen, PUC Vice Chairman. “Due process has been delivered. The commission considered a host of motions, allowed a vast amount of discovery to be gathered, provided an opportunity for all to properly argue their case, and enabled compilation of a complete written and oral record that addressed the conditions first established in the Keystone XL Pipeline construction docket,” Fiegen concluded.

“We made it clear from the very beginning of this process that in order to prohibit the Keystone XL Pipeline certification, proof would need to be presented that TransCanada cannot meet the conditions set by the PUC in 2010,” Commissioner Gary Hanson said. “Through this protractive and open process, the validity of Keystone XL’s certification has been thoroughly vetted. There has been no evidence provided that shows TransCanada Keystone XL will be unable to meet the requirements of the permit. If the company secures a presidential permit and the pipeline is built, the PUC will monitor the progress to ensure the construction conditions are met,” Hanson said.

TransCanada came before the PUC in March 2009 with its request to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline across parts of western South Dakota. The commission approved an amended final decision and order on June 29, 2010. Because TransCanada did not begin construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline in South Dakota within four years of the permit being issued, state law requires the company to certify to the PUC that the facility continues to meet the conditions upon which the permit was granted.

TransCanada Keystone Pipeline filed the certification with the PUC on Sept. 14, 2014. Since then, the PUC has reviewed thousands of pages of filings by parties; held numerous meetings at which motions offered by intervenors, TransCanada and PUC staff were discussed and decided; and conducted a nine-day evidentiary hearing.

The commission granted intervenor status to all 30 individuals and 12 organizations that requested it, allowing them full participation in the certification docket including the ability to file legal motions, request discovery (facts or documents), present testimony and evidence, and participate in the evidentiary hearing. Three intervenors withdrew from the docket in the spring of 2015. The remaining intervenors included landowners along the pipeline route, Native American tribes, environmental groups, grassroots membership organizations, and interested individuals from South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and New York.

Approximately 100 people attended a public input session at the State Capitol in Pierre on July 6, at which 52 commenters offered verbal statements to the commission about the Keystone XL Pipeline certification. Several hundred written comments were submitted to the PUC throughout the course of the proceeding.

The evidentiary hearing was held in Pierre on July 27-Aug. 1 and Aug. 3-5, during which the commission heard testimony and accepted evidence from TransCanada, PUC staff, and intervenors.

The pipeline route in South Dakota has an estimated length of 315 miles that will cross portions of Harding, Butte, Perkins, Meade, Pennington, Haakon, Jones, Lyman and Tripp counties. The project also includes seven pump stations to be located in Harding, Meade, Haakon, Jones and Tripp counties. The plans specify two pump stations each in Harding and Tripp counties. The pipeline will transport crude oil starting in Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska.

The PUC expects to issue its written final decision and order in the coming weeks. That document will be part of the full docket found on the PUC’s website at, “Commission Actions,” Commission Dockets,” “Hydrocarbon Pipeline Dockets,” “2014 Hydrocarbon Pipeline Dockets,” Docket 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.