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Janell Cole, Published November 07 2007

Fargo gains intervener status in pipeline proposal

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Public Service Commission voted 2-1 this morning to reopen the hearing on the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline route through the state and granted the city of Fargo intervener status.

The PSC also voted to consider many other late-filed comments that arrived in its office after the last hearing day concluded in September.

The PSC must approve the pipeline's construction and route before the company begins laying pipe in the state.

Commissioners Tony Clark and Kevin Cramer said reopening the case and granting Fargo status as a party is the still the fastest way to resolve the case because commissioners would likely end up in court if they denied the requests.

Commissioner Susan Wefald argued that the commission could consider Fargo’s late information without granting intervention.

This afternoon, the commission will discuss when it might hold the reopened hearing, which will be limited to the water issues. Clark said he thinks a decision can still be made on permitting the pipeline by early January. The original deadline was Nov. 2.

The crude oil pipeline’s North Dakota section is to be built next summer between Walhalla and Oakes, part of a route from northern Alberta to Illinois and Oklahoma refineries.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker wrote Oct. 4 to the PSC, saying Keystone’s hearing testimony did not consider the safety of city’s drinking water from the Sheyenne River and Lake Ashtabula. The letter came nearly a month after the last scheduled day of hearings, which was Sept. 6. City officials maintain that they were not given adequate notice of the hearings, held over four days in July and September.

The pipeline is to run parallel to the river a few miles away. Lake Ashtabula is a reservoir of Sheyenne River water.

Keystone spokesman Jeff Rauh said they were disappointed in the delay and the commission had a strong case to reject Fargo’s motions as untimely. He and other company officials argue that the hearing record would show that the water quality assurances Fargo wants have been already addressed by expert witnesses earlier in the case.

Rauh said the delay will likely cost the company an additional $65 million to $100 million.

Read more Thursday in The Forum. Fargo gains intervener status in pipeline proposal Janell Cole 20071107