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Keystone inspection will be plenty, commissioner says

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Keystone inspection will be plenty, commissioner says
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

BISMARCK -- The Public Service Commission has OK'd a $73,000 contract for a Bismarck-based engineering company to monitor Keystone Pipeline construction through the eastern part of the state.

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Commissioners Kevin Cramer and Susan Wefald voted Thursday to award the contract to Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson, which will provide 32 hours a week of unannounced spot checks and monitoring of whether the construction is done according to the PSC's route permit. Commissioner Tony Clark was absent.

KLJ has offices in Grafton and Valley City, which helps facilitate its monitoring of the two simultaneous segments of the Canadian crude oil pipeline construction, Cramer said. One segment runs from the Canadian border near Walhalla south to near Valley City. The second segment runs from near Valley City south to the state line near Cogswell.

The PSC has never before hired inspectors monitor a pipeline project to this extent. Otherwise, the PSC would have sent members of it small staff out, and they would not be able to visit more than a few times, he said.

At least one critic of the pipeline project said the inspection arrangement is too sparse. Janie Capp of Lankin, whose land will be crossed by the Canadian crude oil pipeline, wrote to the commission with her concerns.

She said if the federal government were monitoring the pipeline construction, it would be on site 100 percent of the time and in all places where any construction activity is happening.

"Why should the citizens of North Dakota and the PSC settle for less?" she asked.

Capp had heard the PSC-hired inspector would only be in the field 12 hours a week.

Neither allegation is true, Cramer told Capp.

Cramer has met with the federal officials and said that while federal government does indeed have jurisdiction over the Keystone line, through the Office of Pipeline Safety it doesn't and wouldn't provide monitoring 100 percent of the time. In Keystone's case, the federal government "will likely not have an inspector on the ground more than a handful of times," he wrote to Capp.

Capp told Cramer, "I still don't believe we are getting the protection we need--that a full time inspector would provide."

Having the inspectors watching every inch of the construction is not necessary, nor is the expense justifiable, Cramer said. The part time inspection is plenty because KLJ's people "could show up any day, at any time" to check on the construction sites, he said.

The $73,000 for inspectors covers 24 weeks of work and comes from the remnant of TransCanada Corp.'s $100,000 application fee it paid to the PSC to start permit proceedings nearly two years ago. If the construction goes on longer and $73,000 won't cover it, he said, the PSC can go to the state Emergency Commission for permission to charge TransCanada more money to cover a longer period of inspection.

Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.

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