PUC sets final processes for TransCanada hearing

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Farm Forum

PIERRE — The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission on July 21 rejected most of the limits that TransCanada wanted on opponents for the permit hearing next week on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Bill Taylor, a Sioux Falls lawyer representing Trans-Canada, asked to require opening statements in writing and to specify who could cross-examine.

“Seven days of hearing, 53 witnesses, what can we do to streamline the process?” Taylor asked.

The various organizations, individuals and tribal governments that are seeking to deny the permit argued against TransCanada’s requests.

Travis Clark, a lawyer representing the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said each opponent should be able to present its specific case and conduct its cross-examinations.

Taylor wanted the opponents to jointly use one lawyer to cross-examine a witness.

“Denying that opportunity really does unduly burden our due-process rights,” Clark said.

The three PUC members generally agreed with the opposition arguments.

However, the commission approved a statement prohibiting repetitive or redundant questions. “I’d like it set from the beginning so there’s no question,” chairman Chris Nelson said.

Opponents can give their opening statements in writing if they choose, but won’t be allowed to follow up with a verbal statement on the first day of the hearing. All parties can offer a verbal opening statement if they didn’t submit one in writing.

“I’ve gone from a yes to a no to a yes to a no,” commissioner Gary Hanson said about the request to require written opening statements.

Nelson said different lawyers can cross-examine the same witness, but they’ll be limited to eliciting additional information.

“I don’t want 10 lawyers asking the same question 10 times,” Nelson said.

Parties who are represented by lawyers will have to use only the lawyers for cross-examinations and they will be limited to the direct topic.

TransCanada holds a permit for the pipeline, which would cross from Montana through western and south-central South Dakota into Nebraska, but President Barack Obama hasn’t given federal approval for the pipeline to cross the U.S. border from Alberta.

State law requires a review of a permit after four years if construction hasn’t started. The review is to certify the permit conditions will still be met.

That is the purpose of the evidentiary hearing that begins 9 a.m. on July 27 at the Capitol in Room 414.

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Evidentiary hearing

• Begins 9 a.m. July 27 at the Capitol in Room 414; continues at 8 a.m. July 28-31 and Aug. 3-4.

• The proceedings will be live online each day at www.puc.sd.gov.