Keystone XL Opponents Ask Court to Reopen PUC Docket to Discuss Freeman Spill

As our tribal neighbors vow to continue their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Yankton Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, plus Dakota Rural Access and a whole bunch of other friendly troublemakers, are lobbing a court grenade at the mostly dead Keystone XL pipeline. The tribes, DRA, and other activists filed a challenge in the South Dakota Sixth Circuit this month calling for the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission to reopen its Keystone XL docket.

The appellants contend that evidence revealed by the Freeman spill on the Keystone pipeline last April is material to the PUC’s continuing permission for TransCanada to lay pipe in South Dakota:

Appellants proffer the new evidence, that relates to the nature, extent, cause, and environmental damage from the recent spill, is relevant to the history of TransCanada’s spills and near spills due to non-compliance with its own construction plans, violations of PHMSA regulations, and permit conditions. Such evidence constitutes additional new, but non-cumulative evidence relevant to TransCanada’s continuing compliance with at least PUC Original Permit Conditions 1, 7, 31, and 36-38. The new evidence will further enhance evidence presented in the PUC hearing record of issues related to compliance failures involving design, construction, inspection, spill detection, and emergency response plans for the KXL Pipeline, which were said to be virtually identical to those involved with the Keystone Pipeline. Such evidence further corroborates the hearing testimony of former TransCanada engineer and whistle-blower Evan Vokes regarding safety issues involving critical welds. It also constitutes material impeachment evidence impacting the credibility of TransCanada witnesses and their testimony that was relied upon by the PUC in making its Final Decision [Dakota Rural Action, Yankton Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Inter-Tribal Council on Utilities Policy et al., “Joint Motion for Leave to Present Additional Evidence/Remand and Motion for Stay of Proceedings,” in re Public Utilities Commission Docket HP14-001, South Dakota Sixth Judicial Circuit, 2016.07.18].

The PUC recertified TransCanada’s permit to build Keystone XL last January, despite the death of the that tar sands oil pipeline at the hands of President Obamainnovation, and a collapsing business case. Keystone XL will likely never be built; TransCanada and its environmentalist opponents have turned their attention to Energy East, a plan to pipe tar sands oil east from Alberta to the Atlantic. But reopening the Keystone XL docket would give the PUC a chance to discuss the Freeman spill and TransCanada’s substandard steel and have that information on the record for reference in future pipeline hearings.


4 Responses to Keystone XL Opponents Ask Court to Reopen PUC Docket to Discuss Freeman Spill

  1. mike from iowa

    South Dakota lost out on big money, too, when it gave TransCanada (a company with $64 billion in assets) $14 million as part of a contractor’s excise tax rebate. TransCanada projected they’d pay $6.5 million in property taxes to South Dakota for the first year of operation, but from 2010 to 2013, South Dakota received an average of only $3.4 million.

    From an April 2016 Time Magazine article which featured quote from some guy named Paul Seamans. I have heard of him.

  2. Paul Seamans

    I’m probably going to repeat myself here but it won’t be the first time.

    We recently learned from two phmsa reps at a meeting at Stanton NE that the Keystone 1 has two problems going on at the same time. First off is the Freeman spill. Because of this spill PHMSA has ordered TransCanada to dig up and inspect similar transition welds between the pump stations at Freeman and Hartington NE.

    The other thing happening is that PHMSA has ordered TransCanada to dig up and replace sections of pipe with bulges in them. After the pipe was laid and covered it was hydrostatically tested with water at pressures at 125% to 150% of maximum operating pressure (MOP). The K1 is designed to operate at 72% of MOP which would be 1440 psi. 100% of MOP would be 2000 psi. 150% of MOP would be 3000 psi. Hydrostatic testing at 3000 psi caused the bulges in the pipe. PHMSA allowed TransCanada 18 months to run an electronic laden “pig” through the pipe to check for anomalies. This is when the bulges were discovered. Eighteen months after completion would have meant that these bulges were known about since the end of 2011. Why is TransCanada only now getting around to replacing these sections, over four years later?

    PHMSA has ordered TransCanada to lower operating pressure from 1440 psi to around 800 psi. Has this K1 been operating at unsafe pressures for over four years. Why doesn’t the PUC know about these things? Why did the PUC allow the use of cheap steel. Why didn’t the PUC require independent onsite inspectors during construction? I hold the PUC partially responsible for any pipeline leaks. The PUC is responsible for permitting pipelines, do your job people.

  3. I think what pesky protesters like yourself, Mr. Seamans are doing is such a public service that the governor and his legislature should recognize you all for it. Any time that cncerned citizens get involved to prptect the states intrests, that should b acknowledged. Thanks to all.

  4. I am continually confounded on how some people think all industries naturally meet every moral obligation/concern. It takes a real simpleton to staunchly fight people every single time they want to hold an industry accountable – and claim, “those damn liberals wont rest until they kill every single job in America.” There are waaay too many voters carrying on that dialogue in South Dakota. If it weren’t for the GOP enculturation machine – reasonable people would have a much easier time getting a company to fix problems like bulges and poor welds in low grade steal pipes.

    Daugaard would be near excommunicated by his national party and donors like the Koch Bros. if he acknowledged any good that those darn muckrakers have done to increase awareness and prevent pollution.