Landowners Face $1M in Liens over Keystone XL Road Dispute

Some South Dakota landowners are outraged over liens hitting their property

By Associated Press

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Some South Dakota landowners are outraged over liens hitting their property related to the Keystone XL crude-oil pipeline.

Iowa-based Brandenburg Drainage filed 23 liens totaling more than $1 million against Meade County landowners last month, the Rapid City Journal reported. The lien amounts ranged from about $3,600 to nearly $244,000.

Brandenburg Drainage is a subcontractor of a company that developer TransCanada hired to improve county roads during the construction phase of the Keystone XL pipeline project.

The long-stalled pipeline would move crude oil from tar sands in Canada, through western South Dakota, and eventually to the U.S. Gulf Coast. President Donald Trump issued a new presidential permit last week to speed up development of the pipeline. The move comes after a federal judge in November blocked the project, saying the Trump administration hadn’t fully considered potential oil spills and other environmental impacts.

Brandenburg Drainage completed some road improvement work last fall before a dispute arose with contractor Diamond Willow Energy. Brandenburg Drainage filed mechanic’s liens against the landowners to recover money the company claims they’re owed by Diamond Willow.

Mechanic’s liens are a product of state laws that date back to the 1870s and are usually placed on property owned by the person who ordered the work. The liens are unusual because the affected landowners aren’t involved in the projects.

If legitimate, they’ll remain in place until someone pays the subcontractor to release it, which could complicate an owner’s attempts to sell their property or use it as collateral for a loan.

Lyle Weiss owns one of the largest stretches of land near the vicinity of a planned Keystone XL pump station, workforce camp and pipe yards. He received the biggest lien for nearly $244,000 and he’s growing worried about its potential impact on the operating note for his ranch.

“They’re messing with our livelihood,” Weiss said.

Several of the affected landowners said they’ve been assured by TransCanada that the issue will be resolved soon.

Diamond Willow official JC Johnson said he’s working to get the liens released. Johnson claims that Brandenburg Drainage underbid, overspent and underperformed on the job.

“It’s not by our doing that they’re trying this,” Johnson said. “They didn’t bid the job right and they’re losing money. It’s plain and simple.”

Brandenburg Drainage declined to comment.

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