In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian

Residents gather in South Dakota to lament loss of pipeline

PHILIP, S.D. — Residents and business owners upset by the loss of the Keystone XL pipeline gathered in southwestern South Dakota on Monday and appealed to three Republican congressman to help restart the project.

One of President Joe Biden’s first moves was to revoke Keystone XL’s presidential permit and shut down construction of the long-disputed pipeline that was to carry oil from Canada to Texas. While the decision was celebrated by some tribal residents, environmental activists and others, many view it as a dagger to small-town business.

The 1200-mile (1931.21-kilometre) pipeline was designed to run from the Alberta tar sands in Canada to Nebraska. It would enter South Dakota at a spot 32 miles northwest of Buffalo and run southeast through Harding, Butte, Perkins, Pennington, Haakon, Jones, Lyman, Meade and Tripp counties before exiting the state about 20 miles southeast of Colome.

Many residents from those counties spoke Monday in Philip. Jeff Birkeland is CEO of West Central Electric Cooperative, which would have served pump stations across the XL route in Haakon and Jones Counties. He talked about the pipeline creating an estimated $100 million in annual property tax revenue for state government and local tax entities, KCCR radio reported.

“You look at our numbers, we’ve lost $90 million in revenue. Take that times 11 just for the cost in the basin. It’s big,” Birkeland said.

Trisha Burns and her husband ranch and operate a wellness centre in Philip. She said the loss of the pipeline is taking a personal as well as financial toll. She cited one family who thought they finally found stability after moving to Philip for a pipeline job. They rented a house and bought furniture rather than sleeping on portable mattresses.

“They had a Christmas tree for the first time in years,” Burns said. “And they get the call, and they’re done. She said, `I can’t even give you notice.”’

South Dakota Rep. Dusty Johnson organized the meeting and was joined by North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong, who’s sponsoring legislation to restart the pipeline, and Washington state Rep. Dan Newhouse, chairman of a congressional caucus of western states. Johnson said the first-hand accounts by residents who will be hurt by Biden’s order should help put the project back in play.

“It is so often that stories hold more weight than data,” Johnson said, adding that he hopes their words will hit home with at least six Democrats who will need to support Armstrong’s bill.

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