South Dakota counties could become responsible for any costs associated with future protests over the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, reports the Black Hills Pioneer. According to South Dakota law, counties are required to spend significant county funds before the state disaster funding become available.
Nine West River counties are on the pipeline’s path, and some expect the same kind of protests that were seen in response to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota in 2016 and 2017. That protest, which lasted seven months and turned violent, cost an estimated $38 million, and payment remains in dispute.
Emergency management officer in Harding County, Kathy Glines, fears that these kinds of costs could bankrupt counties. Chapter 34 of South Dakota law states that counties must meet minimum local effort to qualify for state financial assistance for disaster relief. The state is also only required to fund up to 60 percent of costs after the local threshold has been surpassed. This spending requirement will not stop the state from responding in an emergency, but payment methods are determined after the emergency is over.
Opposition to the pipeline’s construction is heavily based in concern over potential leaks and spills that could damage land, surface water, and underground aquifers. Native American tribes have also expressed major concern that the construction of the pipeline will destroy cultural and historic sites and artifacts. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has already announced it will support any protests over ongoing pipeline projects, including the Keystone XL, and the Cheyenne River and Yankton Sioux Tribe, along with the environmental group Dakota Rural Action have written letters to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission opposing the pipeline and calling TransCanada’s permit compliance into question.
The Keystone XL Pipeline, an $8 billion project of TransCanada, is planned to begin construction next spring, with approximately 250 miles of underground pipeline being planned and prepared for in western South Dakota. The pipeline would enter South Dakota in Harding County and pass through Butte, Perkins, Meade, Pennington, Haakon, Jones, Lyman, and Tripp counties before entering Nebraska. The pipeline would carry crude oil from Alberta, Canada, through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would merge with existing pipeline to carry the oil to Texas refineries.
The pipeline will not cross the Missouri River, but will pass under the Cheyenne River near the border of Meade and Pennington counties.
Costs to manage a major protest, which this construction project could see, can be incredibly high, involving numerous agencies and spending categories. Legislation could also emerge that would alleviate the burden on counties potentially affected by protests and the associated costs. TransCanada has not directly addressed the potential for protests at Keystone XL or if the company would assume any responsibility to pay for response efforts.
Find more information about the Keystone XL Pipeline in the Black Hills Knowledge Network news archive.