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South Dakota regulators approve Dakota Access Pipeline, but official calls company ‘abusive’

PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission voted 2-1 Monday to approve the Dakota Access Pipeline, with the dissenting commissioner blasting the company for "trampling" on the property rights of citizens.

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission voted 2-1 Monday to approve the Dakota Access Pipeline, with the dissenting commissioner blasting the company for "trampling” on the property rights of citizens.

South Dakota is the first state to approve the 1,134-mile pipeline proposed by Energy Transfer Partners that would carry Bakken crude from North Dakota to Patoka, Ill.

Commissioner Gary Hanson, who voted to deny the permit, said the Texas company was “abusive” when it filed lawsuits against landowners to survey their property, a practice the company also did in North Dakota.

“Bringing lawsuits against the citizens of South Dakota before receiving a siting permit is reprehensible. … This makes me suspect of the willingness to negotiate with our landowners long-term,” Hanson said.

Hanson said he thinks Dakota Access ought to apologize to those South Dakota landowners and reimburse them for legal expenses, but added he doesn’t have the authority to order the company to do so.

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The proposed $3.7 billion pipeline would initially carry 450,000 barrels of crude oil per day and could be expanded to 570,000 barrels per day, making it the largest oil pipeline that would originate in North Dakota.

In South Dakota, the pipeline travels more than 270 miles and extends through 13 counties. The pipeline route enters South Dakota just east of the Missouri River in Campbell County and extends southeast to the Sioux Falls area, exiting at the South Dakota-Iowa border in Lincoln County.

The commission’s approval of the permit is contingent on several conditions that aim to protect landowners along the route, such as requirements for construction and reclamation.

“It is crucial that we do this right so that our farmers and ranchers can get back to doing what they do best, producing food for the world,” Chairman Chris Nelson said.

Commissioners said they heard passionate opposition from landowners during their review of the pipeline route, including at a hearing in Sioux Falls attended by 400 people. Nelson, who owns land in Aurora County, said he’s asked himself 100 times how he would feel if he received a notice that Dakota Access would cross his land.

“Frankly, I say to the landowners, I wouldn’t be any happier than any of you all are or have been,” Nelson said.

But commissioners had to base their decision on a standard set by state law, and Nelson and acting commissioner Rich Sattgast said they think the company met its burden of proof.

“Quite simply, I find that throughout this process Dakota Access has demonstrated that they have a legal right to have this permit issued to them,” Nelson said.

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Hanson, however, argued that the pipeline route would unduly harm future development for the communities of Harrisburg and Tea in the Sioux Falls area.

“It’s the highest growth area, economic and population growth area of this state,” Hanson said. “From that standpoint, it just needs to be moved a distance away.”

Hanson said he suspects the decision to grant the permit will be appealed to the South Dakota court system.

“I know that my remarks will be a part of that process,” Hanson said. “I hope that somehow along the line the shortcomings of this project will be corrected so we don’t live to regret our actions here.”

Peggy Hoogestraat, a member of Dakota Rural Action who owns land along the route west of Sioux Falls, said she was disappointed in the decision, but thought the commissioners did attempt to address many issues the grassroots conservation group raised.

“I know that they heard our voices, and that was a good thing,” Hoogestraat said.

The group still needs to review several pages of new information from the hearing before deciding whether to appeal, she said.

Energy Transfer Partners said in a statement Monday the company was pleased with the decision and anticipates beginning construction in South Dakota early next year. The company has negotiated voluntary easements from 91 percent of the 743 routes along the South Dakota route.

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“This is an important infrastructure project that will provide a more direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible manner to transport this crude oil,” the company said.

The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, a coalition with members in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois, applauded the commission’s decision.

“Projects like Dakota Access help to build on America's energy security, deliver energy products in a safe and efficient manner, and create new economic opportunities for South Dakota and the Midwest,” said Ed Wiederstein, MAIN Coalition chairman.

The pipeline route is still under review in other states, including by the North Dakota Public Service Commission.

Related Topics: DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE
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