PUC permit review bill fails in committee

PIERRE – Projects approved by the Public Utilities Commission but not started within 10 years would need to go through the approval process again according to SB126. Tuesday morning the Senate Judiciary Committee defeated the bill. 

Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said the bill was needed because “a lot can change in 10 years.” Heinert noted that when the Keystone XL Pipeline project was approved in 2010, oil was at $73.75 a barrel. Tuesday morning, Heinert said the price was $50.44 a barrel adding that domestic oil production has doubled in the last 10 years. 

According to Heinert, the arguments for the pipeline have changed. 

“They darn sure don’t have the accurate data,” Heinert said. 

Rebecca Terk, representing Dakota Rural Action, noted that PUC permits never expire.

“There needs to be some sort of process to look at these permits that have been issued by the PUC in the past,” Terk said. 

Drew Duncan, representing TC Energy, the owner of the Keystone Pipeline, said the company has already gone through a rigorous permitting process. 

“Passing bills to get at one particular project is not good policy,” Duncan said. 

Utilities projects go dormant for a number of reasons, according to Brett Koenecke, representing the South Dakota Public Utility Companies. 

“There can be a host of reasons why a project goes dormant,” Koenecke said. “If something is dormant, why would we bring it back up to the surface?”

Heinert noted that if teachers must be re-certified every five years, it makes sense to re-certify PUC projects ever 10 years. 

If the state doesn’t enact SB126, Heinert said, it’s as good as telling the pipeline company, “You proved it 10 years ago, we believe you.”

A motion to relegate the bill to the 41st legislative day was successful on a 6-1 vote. A motion like that effectively kills legislation. 

“I don’t think we want to upset a process that’s functioning,” said Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown.


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