- Associated Press - Monday, April 27, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - A key hearing to determine whether the state Public Utilities Commission will allow construction of the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline to move forward through South Dakota won’t be held next week, the commission voted on Monday.

The regulatory body met in Pierre and voted 3-0 to delay final arguments to ensure adequate time for parties to examine documents involved in the case, and the hearing will likely be held later this summer. The state initially authorized TransCanada Corp. to construct the Keystone XL pipeline project in 2010, but state rules dictate permits must be re-authorized if the construction of the project doesn’t start within four years of their issuance.

The Public Utilities Commission is now considering TransCanada’s certification that it can still complete the project while meeting the conditions of the 2010 approval.

Pipeline opponents asked for the hearing postponement in South Dakota because they said the original schedule was too tight. Public Utilities Commission Chairman Chris Nelson said commission members approved the delay to ensure adequate time for groups to examine documents involved in the case that TransCanada released through the discovery process.

“For due process to be afforded to all parties, we felt that some additional time was necessary,” Nelson said.

John Harter, a member of opposition group Dakota Rural Action, said in a statement that it was “a judicious decision to move the hearing back so that the people can have their day in court against Keystone XL.”

TransCanada Spokesman Mark Cooper said the company is ready to make its case.

“Whether it’s May or July, TransCanada will stand before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission with independent scientific environmental and engineering experts and clearly demonstrate the conditions to construct the Keystone XL pipeline through South Dakota are stronger than ever,” he said.

The pipeline, first proposed in 2008, also still requires presidential approval because it crosses an international border.

The pipeline would go from Canada through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to refineries along the Gulf Coast. It could also transport some crude from the Bakken oil field.

Critics fear the pipeline could contaminate groundwater and contribute to pollution.

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