The Public Utilities Commission has written a letter to a top official of the company that plans to build a crude oil pipeline across eastern South Dakota to let the firm know the regulatory agency is watching.When TransCanada first conceived their Keystone Pipeline project and saw that it would run a full 200 miles plus through South Dakota they must have been salivating. Eminent domain, already a sore spot for many is even more troublesome in South Dakota and TransCanada is exploiting the South Dakota laws in the courts by going after land from landowners that aren't being as co-operative as TransCanada would like. While court involvement in eminent domain cases is not uncommon, the fact they can do this even before they have final approval from the PUC makes it that much more of a head turner for those involved.
The three-member PUC can't influence how the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline handles land deals, but commissioners are warning that they're keeping tabs.
Public Utilities Commission Chairman Dusty Johnson says he has heard the concerns of landowners who are already getting these condemnation papers. They say they don't understand how TransCanada can take them to court before the PUC has given the company approval to build the pipeline in the state. But Johnson says they leave that process up to the courts.So now South Dakota landowners are being forced to fight condemnation in court on a project that hasn't even been approved yet and if for some reason the project gets denied by the PUC, they will be out any costs associated with fighting it for no reason. But at least they can thank the state for our questionable eminent domain laws and the PUC for putting the fear of God into TransCanada with their "letter". And for those that say this could backfire on TransCanada from a public relations standpoint, I somehow doubt they are too worried considering that the courts will probably give them what pissed off landowners won't.
Johnson says, "That's not something we talk about with TransCanada they're not asking our advice. If they did we might have told them to do something different but we've got our process to work and the circuit court has their process to work through."