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PUC Hearing Word Games from TransCanada… Are They Hearing Opponents?

The Public Utilities Commission spent last week listening to TransCanada tell them again why South Dakota should bear all of the externalities of its tar sands oil pipeline so that it can export Canadian oil overseas—oh, excuse me: the crude oil won’t be exported, just the refined products. Keystone Projects president Corey Goulet said in his PUC testimony that “a small percentage is exported“—and apparently, in Canadian English, “small” means 55.3% to 66.5%.

This week the opponents of Keystone XL get to present their arguments to the PUC. How’s that going?

Dakota Rural Action, Tweet from PUC Keystone XL hearing, 2015.08.03.
Public Utilities Commissioner Chris Nelson (left) is on the job, but Commissioner Gary Hanson (right)…um, reclines?…during testimony from a witness opposing TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. Dakota Rural Action, Tweet from PUC Keystone XL hearing, 2015.08.03.

Hey, don’t sweat Commissioner Gary Hanson’s apparent nap during opponent testimony this morning. He can sit in with absent Commissioner Kristie Fiegen when she reviews the transcript later.

Related Listening: South Dakota Public Broadcasting is offering great coverage of the hearings.


  1. Sabrina 2015-08-03 17:24

    As an update, Commissioner Hanson has said he is dealing with hip pain, and is on medication.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-08-03 17:35

    Thanks, Sabrina! Hanson and Nelson have been reasonably attentive in this process, haven’t they? But uff da—with Fiegen out for medical reasons and now medication making it difficult for Hanson to keep up, do we need a medical time-out?

  3. grudznick 2015-08-03 17:35

    Maybe it’s just so boring it drives those listening insaner than most. I know I would have no tolerance for the jibber jabbering of these interloper lawyers and would just tell them all to shut up and go away, if I was Commissioner of the PUC.

    I should be Commissioner of the PUC.

  4. Paul Seamans 2015-08-03 17:58

    Commissioner Hanson is dealing with shoulder pain and I believe that his sitting that way in his chair was a way to help alleviate that pain. I believe that Commissioners Nelson and Hanson appear to be paying attention. I am having doubts about the impartiality of the PUC staff. PUC staff chief counsel, John Smith, is doing a good job of presiding over the hearing.

  5. Mr. Sol 2015-08-03 18:32

    Maybe I’m missing something – with oil being a fungible commodity who cares where they export it?

  6. larry kurtz 2015-08-03 18:44

    Yeah, Vlad the Impaler might need some diluted bitumen to move ICBMs a little closer to Pierre: works for me.

  7. grudznick 2015-08-03 18:47

    Lar! Were you at Talley’s Silver Spoon last Saturday? They were bringing me up the sidewalk and I thought it looked like you coming out the door.

  8. larry kurtz 2015-08-03 18:58

    did you see that ellsworth is a target for chinese cyber attacks, grud? your compound is likely on their liDAR screen. CYA, bruh.

  9. Sabrina 2015-08-03 21:06

    Cory, he was definitely more out of it than I would consider appropriate. I could not sympathize more with being in pain meds-I’ve had two knee surgeries. It is awful. Does Hanson want to do the right thing? I’m sure he does. But he needed to be honest about his medical situation and how it might affect his attentiveness. This is all very much my personal opinion, but I do believe public officials, when charged with making a decision like this one, should absolutely be at 100% capacity. Regardless of cause, he was not as attentive this morning as he should have been.

  10. Donald Pay 2015-08-03 21:14

    Oh, oh. I recall the SDDS Lonetree dump proposal where they just had barely enough members qualified (due to recusals and whatnot) and one of the board members went to sleep. The guy, of course, voted for the dump, because the only way that proposal made in sense was in his dreams.

  11. Donald Pay 2015-08-03 21:16

    I think they made him go back a review the record for the half hour or so he was nodding off.

  12. bret clanton 2015-08-03 23:14

    Grudznick…I do not have much tolerance of someone jabbering that cannot post in their given name….

  13. Paul Seamans 2015-08-04 06:26

    Mr. Sol; one reason it makes a difference where it goes it that a foreign company is using the power of eminent domain to cross the land of US citizens to get Canadian dilbit to market. The power of condemnation is meant to provide projects that will be of a public benefit. I do not see how the Keystone XL will benefit me. It will only benefit TransCanada and shippers of Alberta crude.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-08-04 06:45

    Sol, emphasizing Paul’s point about the argument about public benefit, TransCanada and its political backers (Thune, Rounds, Noem…) are making a big deal about saying that we will get to use this oil (or its refined products). That statement misrepresents the economic reality.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-08-04 10:19

    Uh oh: Commissioner Hanson isn’t happy about DRA’s photo of his posture. He tells Bob Mercer that photo is “inflammatory” and “false”. He also confirms what Sabrina told us at the top, that he was feeling nauseous from pain medication.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-08-04 10:20

    And click Mike’s link to Desmog Blog: excellent summary of points raised by opponents that TransCanada struggles to answer.

  17. Bob Mercer 2015-08-04 10:41

    The commissioner made those comments during the hearing. It’s on the audio from the hearing.

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-08-04 10:44

    Interesting, Bob! Was Commissioner Hanson checking Twitter during the hearing? Did someone bring the DRA photo to his attention during a break?

  19. Rorschach 2015-08-04 11:07

    A factfinder in that position at a public hearing should give rise to concern. I’m inflamed, but not unjustifiably so. If Mr. Hanson is suffering from unclear mind, or in need of a rest, perhaps they should pause the hearing until he recovers.

  20. mike from iowa 2015-08-04 11:26

    Well,the commissioner wasn’t operating any heavy equipment,so there’s that. Pain,in and of itself,can be a serious distraction w/o the aid of any medication. Still,it doesn’t look good to have your head down and appear like you are dozing.

  21. leslie 2015-08-04 12:51

    maybe a democrat alternate could be suggested for our chief decider to appoint after hanson brings a note from his dr.;

    but maybe he’s publicly malingering in the face of some fake back injury claim he has against worker’s comp or other insurer, but at least mercer is on top of his rage at being “outted while sleeping”;

    or maybe 60% tar sands/40% benzene (carcinogen) ect. secret proprietary dillutent “flowing and grinding” thru rusty chinese reused steel pipe under a bazillion pounds per square inch of pressure under the yellowstone or thru the “sand hills” so kochs can refine it and ship it (as what-oil?)-to export (only a “small percentage-55-65%) out of the usa is maybe not such a good business model for the rest of us and our enviroment;

    and maybe grudz set himself up for that slam taunting good liberals while trolling on a liberal blog and mfi-dozer=heavy equipment-hilarious!!

    and maybe taking usa citizens’ property for pipeline easement for a foreign corporation in usa courts does not sit too well with democrats;

    but maybe what with climate change, rising sea levels and human caused global warming, melting both poles and siberia, and canada, refining and then burning tar and adding that filthy soot to the atmosphere isn’t so smart;

    but then again this is a SD administrative board, red as can be, and like the banking board, the audit board, the regents, dci and every other institution full of partisan republican schills, looks is everything and merits are nothing (don: are you saying years ago regan-i mean janklow appointed a mineral board of schills against all opposition?)


  22. 96Tears 2015-08-04 13:14

    You don’t even need to get into a fight with a dope like Hanson over climate change. The stupid pipeline is prone to rupturing. Check out the recent blowout in Canada, the blowout in the Yellowstone River and the one five years ago in Michigan into the Kalamazoo River. Check out the track record of spills from the first Keystone pipeline.

    The sludge they’re ramming through is more corrosive, under much higher pressure and hotter temps than normal crude. It’s just a matter of time before KXL starts blowing out along its route over the Ogallala Aquifer in the next few decades.

    And if it happens once, does that mean they replace the whole thing? Nope.

    They just patch up the blowout and hope the rest of the 1,700 miles of pipeline doesn’t blow out again. In 30 years, you won’t be watering cattle or humans with that aquifer.

    This brings up the big question: Why can’t they just reroute the thing somewhere else to serve their Chinese and other overseas customers, preferably through Canada???

  23. Paul Seamans 2015-08-04 13:35

    96tears, I have personally talked with Gary Hanson at last year’s state fair. Gary brought up the subject of climate change and how he believes that something needs to be done.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-08-04 13:54

    Paul makes a really interesting point that fits with some signals Hanson has sent in other press. He may well be as open to hearing DRA’s arguments as anyone at the table, and more open than our stereotypes about Republicans may lead us to believe.

    But is the commission even considering climate change in this hearing?

  25. leslie 2015-08-04 14:06

    96, isn’t it because kochs own a large part of the tar sands and the central usa refineries?

  26. Paul Seamans 2015-08-04 14:19

    Cory, the PUC commission has shot down any attempt to enter climate change into the hearing. Many attempts have been made, both directly and through the back door.

  27. Paul Seamans 2015-08-04 14:33

    Cory, just an interesting aside.TransCanada lawyer Bill Taylor, during an objection when Wayne Fredrick, a Rosebud Tribal councilman was testifying, Mr. Taylor referred to Wayne as “that guy” rather than as “Mr Fredrick”. He was roundly corrected and became very apologetic.

  28. leslie 2015-08-04 14:54

    taylor is a big wheel in the state, sat on the mineral board for years, was then tied to a big gravel operator, and has daugaard administrative legal work sewed-up the yin yang.

  29. Paul Seamans 2015-08-04 15:11

    leslie, interesting information about Bill Taylor. Taylor has shown absolutely no dominance over the opposition lawyers. We have nine, sometimes twelve, lawyers representing the opposition.

  30. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-08-04 15:56

    roundly corrected… by PUC counsel?

    Twelve lawyers? Holy cow, talk about herding cats! :-)

  31. Paul Seamans 2015-08-04 16:05

    Cory, roundly corrected by intervenor lawyers and individual intervenors. For you people out there that understand human psychology out there, does this mean that Bill Taylor is getting rattled to make such a faux pas?

  32. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-08-04 16:12

    It certainly indicates a lack of respect for the intervenor attorney and his fellow member of the bar.

  33. Mr. Sol 2015-08-04 17:30


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