Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

More time granted to comment on Keystone pipeline

More time granted to comment on pipeline
Groups petitioned U.S. State Department on behalf of farmers, ranchers

Thom Gabrukiewicz • tgabrukiew@argusleader.com • December 6, 2008

People will have much more time to comment on the application for a presidential permit required to build TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

U.S. State Department officials said the comment period for both the presidential permit and the environmental impact statement will last 45 days past the completion of a draft environmental impact statement. Because the pipeline begins in Canada, a U.S. State Department presidential permit is needed.

"In January we will publish in the Federal Register a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement," said J. Brian Duggan, an energy officer with the Bureau of Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs. "The notice will provide a Web site from which the public can download the application and other public documents related to the application, including the draft EIS, as well as post their comments and concerns."

The State Department, Duggan said, is in the process of hiring an independent contractor to do the statement. Once the department gets the draft, it will publish another notice in the Federal Register - and the public will have an additional 45 days to comment.

"We currently anticipate the publication of this notice sometime next summer," he said.

Dakota Resource Council, Dakota Rural Action, Northern Plains Resource Council, Plains Justice and Western Organization of Resource Councils asked the State Department this week to republish notice of the presidential permit application. The groups asked for a new, 90-day comment period so that farmers, ranchers and other landowners will have a reasonable amount of time to comment.

There has been some misunderstanding about the time frame to comment on the permit process, Duggan said.

The initial notice was first published Nov. 2 in the Federal Register.

A stated, 30-day comment period expired Thursday.

"Despite the 30-day comment period announced in the (notice), the State Department, as a matter of internal policy, has always accepted comments from the public up to the last cutoff period," Duggan said. "We will continue this practice as a matter of internal policy, not due to an agreement with any individual or organization. We regret any confusion caused by our initial notice."

"I am pleased that the State Department has agreed to provide landowners with much more information and more time to comment on the proposed Alberta tar sands pipeline that is going to cross eastern Montana, South Dakota and possibly North Dakota," said Lyle Quick, a member of the Northern Plains Resource Council and a rancher in McCone County, Mont.
Rural Action member reacts

Keystone XL would deliver 500,000 barrels of Alberta tar sands crude oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast. TransCanada and its U.S. partner, ConocoPhillips, already are building the Keystone pipeline, which will deliver 590,000 barrels a day from Hardisty, Alberta, to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma.

Keystone received its presidential permit March 14.

"Landowners and communities along the route deserve the courtesy of a complete application and comment period," said Kent Moeckly, a Dakota Rural Action member from Britton, where Keystone will cross his land. "The current application is insufficient in all areas and far too incomplete to help us decide whether the pipeline is safe, would serve the national interest, or whether the application process protects the rights of landowners and communities along the proposed route."

Reach Thom Gabrukiewicz at 331-2320.

a closer look: Maps of Keystone and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline routes are available on the TransCanada Web site


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