Between 40 and 50 area residents attended a public scoping meeting Tuesday evening to discuss their concerns regarding TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline project. The 1,980-mile project of 36-inch pipeline, which would run through portions of six Montana counties, including 21 miles in Prairie County, is scheduled to begin construction in 2010.
The proposed pipeline would also run through portions of Phillips, Valley, McCone, Dawson and Fallon counties.
The Keystone XL pipeline would begin at the tar sands near Alberta, Canada and is expected to carry 800,000 barrels of the thick oil substance through portions of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska before connecting with the already existing Keystone Pipeline near the Nebraska-Kansas border. The existing Keystone Pipeline extends south to the Gulf Coast in Texas.
Representatives from Entrix, an Environmental and Natural Resource Management firm, led the majority of the meeting. Entrix is working in conjunction with the U.S. State Department to develop an Environmental Impact Study, a required step before construction can begin.
Representatives from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and Bureau of Land Management were on hand to field questions as well. TransCanada representatives were also in attendance, presenting brochures and maps of the proposed project.
“We really want to make sure to capture what you are concerned about,” Kevin Freeman of Entrix told the group of county residents who met in the Bolin multi-purpose room for the two-hour meeting.
Because “piercing of the border” would occur between U.S. and Canada through the proposed project, an EIS, examining the effects on water, soil, animals and other environmental components, must be complied into a written document, explained Freeman, noting concerns addressed at scoping meetings like the one held in Terry would likely be answered in the EIS.
The Draft EIS is expected to be completed in August or September but may run beyond that, Freeman said. Once the Draft EIS is completed and residents have an opportunity to read through it, a team of representatives from the same agencies will hold another series of scoping meetings with the intent of completing a Final EIS in the early part of 2010, Freeman said.
The deadline to submit questions or concerns to be addressed in the Draft EIS is March 13, 2009.
“We don’t live here, you do. So if you could help us out we’d really appreciate it,” Freeman said before opening the meeting to on-the-record questions. A court reporter was on hand transcribing the meeting’s discussions.
County road supervisor Mark Trask was the first to lead off on questions. He expressed concerns the project’s construction would have on county bridges, roads and cattle guards.
After opening the meeting to off-the-record questions, about eight other residents stood to ask another 15 or more questions on concerns regarding everything from management of the Keystone XL pipeline, the effect the project would have on existing water pipelines, installing new water pipelines once the Keystone XL pipeline is in place and easements TransCanada would need to acquire. Freeman asked many of the fielded questions to be put on the record, which most residents agreed to, requiring them to state their name and re-ask the question. Answers were stated off the record, but Freeman noted most of the questions and answers would likely be addressed in the EIS.
Landowner and farmer Tim Hess asked what the Farm Service Agency’s position was on the proposed pipeline sections that would cross through Conservation Reserved Program land.
“We will be working with the FSA,” Freeman replied, noting an extensive discussion would be taking place.
The Draft EIS will be made available to public libraries throughout the effected area. A copy of the Draft EIS can be requested by writing Elizabeth Orlando, OES/ENV Room 2657, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520. Comments or questions can also be submitted to the above address.