PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota regulators agreed Tuesday to limit the scope of information opponents could receive in a case about the Keystone XL oil pipeline from the company trying to build it, but not as strictly as TransCanada Corp. requested.
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The state Public Utilities Commission also decided Tuesday to hear final arguments in early May as part of its decision on whether to re-approve the portion of the Keystone XL pipeline that would run through South Dakota. The commission partially approved TransCanada's request to limit the discovery — or information disclosure — process in the case, but the decision is broad enough to appease opponents who are seeking as much evidence as possible. The discovery process will inform the commission's decision on the pipeline.
Commissioners must confirm that the conditions for construction of the pipeline haven't changed since the permits were first issued in 2010. Opponents point out, for example, that there could be newer technologies than those included in the original permit for detecting oil spills.
Discovery is a key tool for opponents of the pipeline, who are looking for evidence of discrepancies — and other information — regarding the project. State rules dictate permits must be reapproved if the construction of the project does not start within four years of their issuance.
Extracting now-private information from TransCanada will help opponents "learn the facts from the fiction," said Tracey Zephier, an attorney representing the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which opposes the pipeline.
William Taylor, an attorney for TransCanada, said the firm is satisfied with the results of Tuesday's commission meeting.
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The pipeline would transport oil from Canadian tar sands through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to refineries along the Gulf Coast. It could also transport some crude from the Bakken oil field in Montana and North Dakota.
Supporters of the pipeline say it will create thousands of jobs and aid energy independence, but environmentalists warn of possible spills and say transporting oil will eventually contribute to global warming.
The commission scheduled a hearing in early May for final arguments — if they don't decide to reject TransCanada's request before then. Commissioners could decide in January on the Yankton Sioux Tribe's motion to dismiss the re-approval request from TransCanada.