Public Hearings Under Way on Proposed Oil Pipeline

By Beacon Staff

GLENDIVE – Several Dawson County area landowners expressed concern at a public hearing in Glendive on Wednesday about a proposal to build a pipeline through eastern Montana that would move crude extracted from Canada’s oil sands to refineries in the United States.

The meeting was one of six being held in eastern Montana this week to discuss the plan.

Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. wants to start building the 1,980-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada to Texas this year and is proposing to pay landowners for the right to install pipe 4 feet underground.

The state Department of Environmental Quality says the pipeline would cross 220 miles of private land in Montana, 19.1 miles of state land, and 42.6 miles of U.S. Bureau of Land Management property.

About 50 people attended Wednesday’s hearing, but fewer than 10 spoke about their concerns over the proposal’s draft environmental impact statement.

Several landowners questioned parts of the EIS that said the recovery time for soils and vegetation would be two years or less.

“Even if you save the top 12 inches (of soil), it will not produce as it did before, especially the next season as is stated in the EIS,” Dawson County resident Irene Moffett said.

Others asked what would happen when the pipeline is abandoned after it’s 50-year life expectancy, and some local officials said they are worried about the effect construction would have on rural roadways.

“Dawson County as a whole is very concerned about the impact on our county roads and bridges,” County Commissioner Jim Skillestad said.

Jeff Rauh, a public consultant with TransCanada, said the corporation would be fully responsible for damage done during construction. He added that TransCanada enters into an agreement with each county’s government to address individual requests for county road use.

The 45-day public comment period will close May 31.