- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 8, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline argued Wednesday that a South Dakota judge should reverse state regulators’ decision last year to authorize again the portion of the project that would go through the state.

Here’s a look at the pipeline proceedings:

AT ISSUE

The Keystone XL project has prompted opposition from Native American tribes, some landowners and environmental groups concerned the pipeline would contaminate water supplies and contribute to pollution. Opponents appealed the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission’s decision to state court, which heard arguments Wednesday in the case. 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 since construction didn’t start within four years. The commission voted last year to accept the company’s guarantee that it can complete the project while meeting the conditions of the 2010 approval.

Former President Barack Obama rejected the pipeline in 2015, but President Donald Trump has said he supports it, and in January moved to make it easier for the project to proceed.

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THE PIPELINE

The $8 billion project would go from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to crude oil to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

TransCanada said last month that it is once again seeking state approval for a route through Nebraska. It has also submitted a new presidential permit application to the U.S. Department of State for approval.

A company spokesman, Terry Cunha, said in an email that regarding water, 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.”

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IN COURT

Robin Martinez, an attorney for conservation and family agriculture group Dakota Rural Action, a party in the South Dakota case, said the commission’s decision should be reversed because it appeared to his clients that the regulatory panel was biased toward TransCanada during the proceedings and because the company failed to demonstrate that 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.

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OPPONENTS

More than 50 pipeline opponents gathered outside of the Hughes County Courthouse in Pierre before the hearing. Democratic Sen. Kevin Killer, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said the Dakota Access pipeline opposition was the “preseason” for fighting Keystone XL, adding that people need to work against the project in other states on its route.

Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Brandon Sazue called on South Dakota to “wake up.”

“It’s a human thing,” Sazue said. “It doesn’t matter what color you are. It matters if you drink water or not.”

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PROTESTS COMING?

Gov. Dennis Daugaard is pushing legislation this year preparing for potential pipeline protests in South Dakota like the demonstrations over the Dakota Access pipeline 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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