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Decision time in S.D. on huge Bakken pipeline

Decision time in S.D. on huge Bakken pipeline

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WILLISTON– South Dakota regulators are poised to make a decision next week on the Dakota Access Pipeline while North Dakota officials wait for the company to provide more information.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission expects to vote Monday on the state’s portion of the 1,134-mile pipeline that would carry Bakken crude from North Dakota to Patoka, Ill.

The commission can grant a permit for the South Dakota portion of the route, deny the permit or grant a permit with conditions, said Chairman Chris Nelson. A final order from the South Dakota regulators is due Dec. 15.

“We’re at the finish line,” Nelson said.

The $3.7 billion pipeline proposed by Energy Transfer Partners would initially carry 450,000 barrels of crude oil per day and could be expanded to 570,000 barrels per day, making it the largest oil pipeline that would originate in North Dakota.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission is waiting for additional information it requested from the company before commissioners proceed with the route application, Chairwoman Julie Fedorchak said.

In addition, the North Dakota State Historical Society has asked the Public Service Commission to allow enough time to review cultural resources surveys of the route.

The agency has received two multi-volume reports on potential historic and archeological sites along the pipeline route, but does not yet have complete information about the final route.

“We want to know what the final route is going to be,” said Susan Quinnell, review and compliance coordinator.

Fedorchak said the PSC often issues orders that are contingent on the State Historic Preservation Officer’s approval.

Fedorchak said commissioners haven’t formally decided how long they’ll wait for the cultural resources review, but since the PSC is still waiting for information from Dakota Access, “it just kind of works out well.”

One of the issues the PSC conveyed to Dakota Access during the final of three public hearings in North Dakota was a desire to see more landowners voluntarily granting easements for the pipeline.

Commissioners also pressed Dakota Access to seriously consider suggestions from private landowners when they have a strong case for route changes.

Dakota Access now has voluntary easement agreements on more than 81 percent of properties along the North Dakota route, spokeswoman Vicki Granado said.

Another issue that complicates the North Dakota portion of the route is areas where the Dakota Access would overlap with other major crude oil pipelines.

Enbridge has intervened in the North Dakota route application due to concerns the competitor has about areas where their pipelines will be close together and in some cases cross.

Dakota Access will again go before the McKenzie County Commission in December regarding amendments the company proposes to oil tank terminals the commission previously approved.

The amendments, one related to landscaping and the other related to the size of a tank, are scheduled to be discussed by the commission on Dec. 15.

Recent public hearings in Iowa prompted protests from people opposed to the project, while others rallied in favor of the pipeline.

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