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SD protest possible for Keystone XL pipeline

Pipes for underground fuel transport for TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline lie in a field in Gascoyne, N.D., on April 23, 2013. A U.S. State Department study on the environmental impact of the Keystone XL oil pipeline will not represent a final decision on whether the United States will allow the project to go forward, White House spokesman Jay Carney said on January 31, 2014. REUTERS/Nathan VanderKlippe

COLOME — If TransCanada tries to build the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline through South Dakota, the company will first have to go through John Harter.

Four miles of Harter's land near Colome is included in the planned route of the Keystone XL pipeline, 315 miles of which runs through South Dakota on its way from Canada to Nebraska, and Harter said he's yet to hear from TransCanada regarding a construction timeline.

The project was recently approved by President Donald Trump's administration, but was denied under former President Barack Obama. Now, like one Dakota Access pipeline site, Harter said protests could be what lies ahead for Keystone XL, the sister pipeline to the initial Keystone pipeline that spilled 400 gallons of oil near Freeman last April.

And as far as Harter's land is concerned, the protest starts with him.

"But I told them I'd kick them off my land if they entered it," Harter said.

Harter is also concerned about the environmental impact a spill would have on the Oglala Aquifer, which lies beneath the project route. And if a spill occurred in Freeman — causing $9,068,339 in property damage according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration — Harter said the same situation could take place near a pump station along the Keystone XL route.

"I mean, they're using the same junk steal that the got from the same companies that they've done Keystone I with," Harter said.

According to its January report filed with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), TransCanada intends to have pump stations in Harding, Meade, Haakon, Jones and Tripp counties. One year ago, the Freeman leak occurred near a pump station in rural Hutchinson County.

Despite the damage, TransCanada said the final cleanup and major restoration activities are completed, and the land has been restored to its "natural state." And Matthew John, a spokesperson for TransCanada, said it has maintained its monitoring and inspection efforts following the spill.

"We will continue to carry out aerial and physical inspections of facilities, preventive maintenance and investigative digs to continue to reaffirm the integrity of the Keystone system," John told The Daily Republic. "This is part of what we do on a regular basis, and is part of being a responsible operator and demonstrating the integrity of this critical piece of energy infrastructure."

While Harter wants to see TransCanada's hopes dashed by the court system, TransCanada is optimistic about a future in which the Keystone XL pipeline is buried beneath South Dakota's soil, unseen by locals and passers-by.

"With respect to KXL, construction cannot begin until all state and federal permits are in place," John said. "We anticipate the project being in-service two years after receiving regulatory approvals."

According to TransCanada's report with the PUC, the company has acquired easement agreements with 94 percent of the 301 affected landowners in South Dakota. Harter said his agreement was determined by a court, with the settlement remaining confidential, but he said the initial proposal he received was for $13,300.

Putting the environmental impact aside, Harter said the low easement offer for a pipeline that could lie beneath his land for 40 years or more isn't a great deal from a business perspective.

"And on the business side of it, I get nothing," Harter said. "A good businessman would turn this down because it's not an equitable investment."

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