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Dakotas politicians, landowners react to Keystone XL pipeline rejection

President Barack Obama's decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline was met with mixed reaction from the Dakotas on Friday, but one South Dakota landowner was celebrating after hearing Friday's news.

President Barack Obama's decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline was met with mixed reaction from the Dakotas on Friday, but one South Dakota landowner was celebrating after hearing Friday's news.

"It's just like somebody lifted a ton off my chest," said Paul Seamans, who leads the grassroots conservation group Dakota Rural Action. "This has been pretty dang stressful for seven years now, and it's taken a dedicated bunch of people to accomplish this."

Members of Congress from both states expressed disappointment Friday in Obama’s decision to deny the pipeline, but said they don’t believe this is the end for Keystone XL.

“I do think ultimately it will be approved on the merits,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who sponsored a bill that would have given Congress authority to approve the pipeline. The bill passed, but was vetoed by Obama earlier this year.

Hoeven said there are 63 votes in the Senate to override a presidential veto and he’s working to get the four more votes that are needed. Another option would be to attach the pipeline to legislation the president can’t veto, Hoeven said.

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“The people in this country want energy security,” Hoeven said. “We do not want to go back to being dependent on OPEC.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., also said she will continue discussions to see if there’s a path forward for Keystone XL through Congress. Heitkamp also wants to change the process of making decisions on projects such as Keystone XL.

“It became way too blown out of proportion on all sides of this. It’s time that we treat a piece of infrastructure like it should be treated,” Heitkamp said. “Putting it in a highly politicized type of environment is not the way to do infrastructure.”

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he wasn’t surprised by Obama’s decision.

“It’s consistent with his extreme environmental anti-growth, anti-American jobs agenda,” Cramer said.

While the pipeline route would have run through Montana and South Dakota, it would have skirted the southwest corner of North Dakota. A feeder line would have funneled up to 100,000 barrels of Bakken crude into the pipeline.

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said the pipeline would ease rail congestion and bring millions in tax dollars to South Dakota.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., agreed with Rounds, calling the pipeline a "common-sense project" that would provide 3,000 to 4,000 jobs to South Dakotans during the project's construction phase.

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"I would say that I'm surprised, but with President Obama's commitment to appeasing the far-left environmental wing of his political base, today's decision is just par for the course," said Thune in a news release.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., called the rejection "a purely political decision" that would have increased revenue for the state's "cash-strapped" counties.

From Bismarck, Wayde Schafer, conservation officer for the Dacotah chapter of the Sierra Club, joined Seamans in his support for Obama’s decision.

“We’re very pleased that President Obama decided to send a message that the U.S. is serious about climate change,” Schafer said.

While rejecting the pipeline on Friday, Obama emphasized similar concerns to grassroots groups like Dakota Rural Action, based in Brookings, S.D. The president said the Keystone XL, which would transport Alberta tar sands oil through a 1,179-mile pipeline, would not lower gas prices for consumers in the United States and would not increase the country's energy security.

Earlier this year, Seamans said TransCanada had bullied him into an easement agreement that would allow the Keystone XL pipeline to traverse one mile of his rural Jones County land. After his dealings with TransCanada ended with a perception of disrespect, Seamans said it felt great to have his time and effort validated.

Seamans said Dakota Rural Action will persist in their opposition of both the Keystone XL and the 1,134-mile Dakota Access Pipeline that would run through southeast South Dakota.

For now, Seamans will soak in Obama's decision.

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"I'm ready for the celebrations to begin."

 

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