South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has signed into law legislation aimed at stemming pipeline protests in the state. The new laws have a direct impact on the Keystone XL pipeline construction, which will be getting under way this summer.
The legislation package, Senate Bill 189 and Senate Bill 190, goes into effect immediately, according to a March 27 article by Lisa Kaczke of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. The South Dakota Senate and House passed the two bills within 72 hours of Noem announcing them in early March.
Senate Bill 189 allows the state, and possibly a third party in partnership with the state, to sue protesters or so-called “riot boosters” for up to three times the estimated damages to cover extraordinary law enforcement costs related to a pipeline’s construction. Senate Bill 190 creates the Pipeline Engagement Activity Coordination Expenses (PEACE) fund to pay for extraordinary law enforcement costs.
Opponents of the laws argue that the state is placing limits on the right to protest. Both the ACLU and South Dakota tribal groups could challenge the laws. Noem has disputed those claims.
“I fully support the freedoms of speech and assembly, but we must also have clear expectations and the rule of law,” Noem said, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader report. “My pipeline bills make clear that we will not let rioters control our economic development. These bills support constitutional rights while also protecting our people, our counties, our environment and our state.”
Noem went on to call the bills a “proactive approach” to the risks associated with pipeline construction and a “next generation model” for energy infrastructure projects.
The long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline project is a proposed 1,179-mile, 36-in. diameter crude oil pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska. At an estimated cost of $5.3 billion (USD), the pipeline will transport crude oil from Canada, as well as the Bakken shale region of Montana and North Dakota. The pipeline will have the capacity to transport 830,000 barrels per day (bpd) to Gulf Coast and Midwest refineries. The project will travel from the northwest corner of South Dakota to about the center of the southern border with Nebraska.
While a U.S. District Court judge ruled in February that TransCanada could not begin preparations for construction in Montana, it seems South Dakota is clearing the way for the pipeline to be built. Whether these laws are successfully challenged in court remains to be seen, but Noem’s message is clear: Bring on the pipelines.