Water Management Board Approves TransCanada Permits

Anthony Helland testifies during public comment period at the final round of Water Management Board hearings on TransCanada water permits Tuesday.

The legislative week began on Tuesday, but DRA staff & members were across the river in Fort Pierre for the conclusion of nearly a year of meetings and hearings around five contested water permits for the Keystone XL pipeline. At issue were three permits for the taking of millions of gallons of public water from three rivers (The Cheyenne, White, and Bad) for construction purposes, as well as two amended permits for well water to provide supply for TransCanada’s man camps.

Homegrown Sioux Empire Chapter member and DRA Board Secretary Anthoney Helland testified during the public comment period, and attempted to present to the Water Management Board DRA’s sign-on letter with 485 signatures, but the board would not accept documents–a departure from other comment periods during the months of hearings. TransCanada’s attorney Bill Taylor also attempted to object to Helland’s spoken testimony, but he was overruled.

Board members Everett Hoyt and Timothy Bjork proposed four amendments on each of the river permits, including cutting in half the amount of water appropriated from each river. That scale-back was prompted by DRA attorneys’ cross-examination of Water Rights Program engineers revealing that, in their recommendations, DENR staff had authorized the taking of an amount of water per year, over two years, that TC had applied for in total for the project.

Pesticide Regulation Updates Prove Contentious

The South Dakota Dept. of Agriculture (SDDA) has introduced three bills so far this session that would update existing regulations and feed schedules related to the registration and application of pesticides. Senate Bill 22, SB 24, and House Bill 1028 are designed to help fund the pesticide enforcement program, to tweak ways that cases are handled in court, and to bring the SDDA into compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)–among other things.

But Dept. of Ag staff met some resistance on the bills from a few different directions. Initially, HB 1028 & SB 22 directed SD State’s Attorneys to make a priority of spray drift cases–a direction that State’s Attorneys took umbrage with as legislative overreach. That direction has now been amended out.

Canada goose tracks mingle with people tracks in the Capitol lot after an icy snowstorm this week.

On SB 24, the Dept. of Ag sought to increase fees for pesticide applicators licenses, as well as requiring private applicators to be licensed. These measures did not appear to be contentious, but opponents from the SD Assoc. Of County Commissioners and the Municipal League, as well as a representative from Pennington County balked at the removal of exemption for pesticide applicator licensing fees for county and municipal employees. Action on the bill was then deferred, as the Dept. of Ag looks at how they can make up the budget shortfall if the exemption remains in place.

DRA Member Glenn Pulse testified as a proponent of all three bills, but suggested amendments, including mandating commercial applicators’ use of DriftWatch to identify sensitive sites, and to add a section mandating liability insurance or surety bond for commercial applicators. While Ag Committee members did not take action on either suggested change, there may be further opportunities to push for changes. Watch for Action Alerts on these issues in the coming weeks. Additionally, we may see a separate liability insurance bill come forward soon.

Other Bills to Watch For

There are a number of bills related to bonding coming through this session–including one specific to oil & gas (HB 1025) and another as yet unfiled on oil spill liability bonding. Agland taxation bills are back again this year, and having their first committee hearings today (HB 1006 & HB 1007), plus a carve-out for grasslands (SB 57).

Save The Date! Citizen Lobby Day Feb 24

Mark your calendar for Citizen Lobby Day on Monday, February 24th. We’ll have a member gathering and training the previous evening (Feb. 23) followed by a day at the Capitol, and an evening Legislative Mixer with local food appetizers at Drifters Bar & Grille. Watch for more info on hotel room blocks and other details.

DRA’s work at the Legislative Session is 100% funded by members like YOU!
Please consider an investment in our legislative fund by visiting: https://www.dakotarural.org/organize/legislative-session/ and click on the “Donate” link.
Or, you can mail donations to us at PO Box 549 Brookings, SD 57006

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