DRA has intervened in the pipeline certification of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. Two of our members, Paul Seamans and John Harter, are here at the hearing as well and will be reading their opening statements later in this process and we’ll post those when they are read. For now, here is the opening statement of Dakota Rural Action, as put forward by Robin Martinez:

“Mr. Chairman, Commissioner Hanson, I’m Robin Martinez with the Kansas City-based law firm of Martinez Madrigal & Machicao. I’m here today along with my co-counsel, Mr. Bruce Ellison, representing Dakota Rural Action in these proceedings.

You have a very difficult decision ahead of you. On one hand you have TransCanada, a multi-billion dollar multinational corporation that is a key player in our fossil fuel-based economy. On the other hand, you have a large number of parties who have united to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline — an almost unprecedented coalition of Native American tribes, family farmers and ranchers, and concerned citizens.

The witnesses we are going to present in this hearing will help you understand why Dakota Rural Action is committed to stopping the Keystone XL pipeline.

DRA is an organization focused on family farming and ranching. It’s a proud tradition throughout the Midwest and Great Plains states, not just here in South Dakota, but also in Missouri where I’m from and where my family runs a cattle ranch. Family farmers and ranchers are the backbone of our country’s agricultural history and tradition. One thing that family farmers and ranchers understand is the importance of conservation and taking care of their land. The land is their livelihood. The water that feeds their land is their lifeblood.

When I first started working with Dakota Rural Action, I wanted to know what the organization was all about. I learned that its members work to conserve and protect South Dakota’s environment and unique way of life. Its members work to protect ground water and air quality from pollution, and that it works to remove barriers to and promote the development of clean renewable energy sources like wind power and biofuels. These core principles are why DRA’s members oppose the proposed Keystone XL pipeline — because they believe the pipeline poses unacceptable risks to their land and water, and therefore, their livelihoods and way of life.

During these hearings, we have a number of witnesses we hope you’ll listen to and whose testimony you’ll carefully consider. These witnesses will tell you why TransCanada should not be permitted to build the Keystone XL pipeline through South Dakota, and why the pipeline poses risks to South Dakota’s land and water.

Past performance usually tends to be a good indicator of future performance. That’s why DRA member Sue Sibson wants to testify. As you know from her pre-filed testimony — and you know, Commissioner Hanson, from having visited the Sibson’s farm — the Sibson’s land lies along the route of the Keystone 1 pipeline. When the Commission permitted TransCanada to build Keystone 1 along the eastern portion of South Dakota, you imposed a number of conditions. One of those conditions was that TransCanada mitigate the effects of its pipeline construction and reclaim land post-construction. These same conditions are required of TransCanada for the Keystone XL pipeline. Mrs. Sibson will testify that TransCanada has inflicted an unmitigated disaster on their property. She will testify that six years after construction, the right of way taken by TransCanada from her family under threat of eminent domain remains unproductive and unusable for farming and grazing. She will also testify that, ironically, TransCanada discounted her concerns until — lo and behold — she was designated as a witness in these proceedings, whereupon suddenly TransCanada officials contacted her expressing concern. We all know there’s no such thing as coincidence. Mrs. Sibson’s testimony will highlight the fact that TransCanada is either unwilling or incapable of living up to its commitments and complying with its obligations to reclaim land. I’m a believer in the principle that a picture is worth a thousand words. Hence, we were disappointed that you excluded photographs and a video of the damage TransCanada inflicted on the Sibson’s land as evidence in these proceedings. Therefore, you’re going to have to rely on Mrs. Sibson’s testimony to paint a picture in your minds.

Another witness you will hear from probably ranks as one of TransCanada’s least-favorite persons in the universe. It is rumored that TransCanada has even gone so far as to hire a public relations or opposition research firm to counter the information Evan Vokes is disclosing about the company. Mr. Vokes is an insider. He’s a former TransCanada employee with critical experience in pipeline engineering and construction. One of the things you’ll see in these proceedings is that TransCanada will attack Mr. Vokes with hammer and tongs. When you hear his testimony, you’ll understand why, even though you have disallowed many of the records produced by Mr. Vokes documenting TransCanada’s failure to comply with conditions. Mr. Vokes is a pipeline guy. When we first discussed his testimony, he made it clear that he believes pipelines are a crucial component of our energy infrastructure as it currently exists. He also believes that if you’re going to build a pipeline, you have to build it right, and that the engineers who work on pipelines owe a duty to the public to get it right. Mr. Vokes will testify that TransCanada cannot get it right. That the company has a corporate culture of valuing profits over safety. That they cut corners in order to get pipelines operational, taking the view that if there’s a problem, they’ll just deal with it later. Mr. Vokes’s testimony will have a lot of detail about how pipelines are constructed, how they can fail, and he will describe specific instances where TransCanada fell flat on its face — including a case where a segment of the Keystone 1 pipeline suffered 95% corrosion after only two years of being placed in service. Mr. Vokes’s testimony will demonstrate that TransCanada cannot, or will not meet the conditions imposed on it with respect to safety and sound engineering.

You will also hear from Dr. Arden Davis, a respected professor from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Dr. Davis is a professional engineer and an expert in geological engineering, where he has focused much of his efforts on studying ground water and environmental contamination. His testimony will be that a crude oil or diluted bitumen leak from the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would have a devastating effect on the groundwater supplies, surface water, and environment of South Dakota. Dr. Davis knows South Dakota’s geology. His testimony will walk you through the geological features of the proposed pipeline route. He will show you the large number of water crossings, where potential pipeline leaks or breaches could contaminate the water South Dakota’s farmers, ranchers, and other residents rely upon for drinking water, for their livestock, and to water their crops. Dr. Davis will tell you about how the proposed pipeline crosses major South Dakota waterways, such as the Little Missouri, the Grand River, the Moreau, the Cheyenne River, the Bad River and the White River. He will tell you about the alluvial aquifers adjacent to those water crossings, and how contamination from pipeline leaks or spills can migrate downgradient in both surface water and groundwater.

Dr. Davis will also testify about the nature of contamination posed by leaks and spills from the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. He will tell you about the fact that the diluted bitumen transported from the Canadian tar sands is more caustic than the light sweet crude from other oilfields, how it is cut with other toxic compounds such as benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene. Dr. Davis’s testimony will focus on how these compounds are dispersed through waterways and aquifers, and how they pose significant risks to human health.

Finally, Dr. Davis will testify about the geological risks posed to the proposed pipeline from ground and soil instability and how worst-case spill scenarios could unfold, affecting the water and health of South Dakota’s residents.

Let me conclude by getting to the bottom line. DRA’s witnesses will show that TransCanada either cannot or will not comply with the conditions it must meet with respect to construction of its pipeline through South Dakota. With these failures in mind, we are asking you to deny TransCanada’s petition for certification in these proceedings, thereby protecting the land and water of South Dakota’s residents.”