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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline have asked a judge in Pierre, South Dakota, to reverse a decision by state regulators to authorize the portion of the project that would traverse the state.
Here's a look at the proceedings:
The $8 billion Keystone XL project would move crude oil from Alberta, Canada, across Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines feeding refineries along the Gulf Coast.
Native American tribes, some landowners and environmental groups oppose the pipeline, fearing it would contaminate water supplies and contribute to pollution. Terry Cunha, a spokesman for pipeline developer TransCanada Corp., said in an email that the company's "commitment is to ensure we build a state of the art pipeline system that will be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week using satellite technology along with regular aerial patrols to monitor the pipeline."
The project has faced numerous speedbumps, not least of all former President Barack Obama's refusal to authorize the project. Since coming to office, President Donald Trump has signed executive orders in support of Keystone XL and other pipeline projects. TransCanada has submitted a new presidential permit application to the U.S. Department of State for approval.
AT ISSUE IN SOUTH DAKOTA
The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission last year voted to accept TransCanada's guarantee that it would meet all conditions laid out by the commission when it approved that state's portion of the project in 2010.
Opponents appealed the commission's decision to state court, which heard arguments Wednesday. It's not clear when Judge John Brown will rule.
The commission initially authorized TransCanada Corp.'s project in 2010, but the permit had to be revisited because construction didn't start within the required four years.
Robin Martinez, an attorney for conservation and family agriculture group Dakota Rural Action, said the commission's decision should be reversed because his clients believed the panel was biased toward TransCanada and that the company failed to demonstrate it could build the pipeline safely.
Tracey Zephier, a lawyer for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said the commission abused its discretion by allowing an out-of-state company to "drive the bus" in the pipeline permitting process.
Attorneys for TransCanada and the Public Utilities Commission asked the judge to uphold the order. James Moore, a lawyer for TransCanada, said the commission's proceedings were fair and thorough.
More than 50 pipeline opponents gathered outside the Hughes County Courthouse in Pierre, South Dakota, before the hearing. Democratic Sen. Kevin Killer, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said the months of protests opposing construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota served as "preseason" for the fight against Keystone XL. Killer urged opponents to fight Keystone XL in other states along its route.
Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Brandon Sazue urged the people of South Dakota to "wake up," saying the dispute is not only about tribal rights.
"It's a human thing," Sazue said. "It doesn't matter what color you are. It matters if you drink water or not."
Gov. Dennis Daugaard is pushing legislation this year in preparation for protests in South Dakota similar to the Dakota Access oil pipeline demonstrations in North Dakota. Daugaard's bill includes provisions that would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor for someone to stand in the highway to stop traffic or to trespass in a posted emergency area.
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