Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

[Keystone] Oil pipeline developers want ND route changes

Oil pipeline developers want ND route changes
By DALE WETZEL Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2008

State regulators will hold a hearing next month on 49 proposed changes in the North Dakota route of the Keystone oil pipeline, which is intended to bring crude from western Canada to Oklahoma and Illinois.

Opponents of the pipeline, and anyone else who is interested, also may ask for a separate hearing on the changes, the Public Service Commission decided Wednesday. Although the commission will consider requests for a hearing, it is not required to grant one.

Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer said TransCanada Corp. was asking for a large number of proposed variances for the pipeline's route, which was the subject of a lengthy state review and approval process.

"It is not unusual for the construction crews and the surveying crews, once they get out on the ground in good weather, to find efficiencies, maybe find some landowner issues that they didn't know existed before," he said.

The commission granted TransCanada permission in February to go ahead with the project. Since then, the company has been preparing for construction and pursuing court cases against landowners who are reluctant to allow TransCanada access to their property.

The pipeline's North Dakota segment is planned to stretch for 218 miles through eight North Dakota counties.

The Public Service Commission voted Wednesday to schedule an informal hearing at 1:30 p.m. May 21 to discuss the proposed route changes with TransCanada officials.

The commission also set a May 19 deadline for requests for a formal hearing on the changes. If a hearing is granted, testimony will be taken under oath.

"There are enough reroutes here that really, we ought to take some time (and) provide the public the opportunity for a hearing," Cramer said.

Separately, the commission voted to advertise for consultants who will serve as inspectors during the Keystone line's construction and help the commission's staff with work in siting energy projects.

North Dakota's burgeoning energy development has meant more work for the Public Service Commission's staff and help is needed, Commission President Susan Wefald said.

"We have a very small staff .... and we have a large workload before the commission of potential siting projects, and so we're seeking assistance with those projects," Wefald said.

Cramer and Commissioner Tony Clark said hiring temporary consultants was preferable to taking on permanent staff.

"It's tough from a government standpoint to deal with that, because ... you can't build the church for the Easter Sunday crowd, and you can't build the staff for those periods when you have just a tremendous amount of workload," Clark said. "The way that we are able to manage it is through these consulting contracts."


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