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Legislative Report: February 14-20, 2011

February 20, 2011

submitted by Edward Raventon, lobbyist
South Dakota Chapter of the Sierra Club

SB 180, an act to “impose a fee on certain pipelines carrying crude oil and to create a crude oil pipeline compensation fund that may be used in the event of a crude oil spill” was heard on Thursday. There was a good deal of compelling proponent testimony on this bill. Regrettably, after all the proponent testimony, this bill was deferred until next Tuesday for opponent testimony and voting. I spoke with two of the committee members after the hearing and the sponsor, Senator Jason Frerichs. There seems to be some good support for this bill but I am not sure how the bill will fare after the opponents testify.

I urge you to contact members of the Senate Commerce and Energy committee telling them you feel it is important for South Dakota to establish a pipeline damage reclamation fund. There will be ruptures, breaks and leaks and we cannot rely on this company to keep their promise that they will be good stewards and clean up their mess. Nebraska has very tough laws in place regarding clean up and reclamation. Presently, we have nothing on the books so it is imperative that the state have a contract with a ready fund to take care of whatever mess is created immediately. Landowners also need to be compensated their losses.

SB 158 a pro-industry, uranium mining bill that seeks to suspend the state’s DENR primacy regulatory authority on underground injection control Class III wells and in situ leach mining passed the committee 6 to 1. This was disappointing. I put a good deal of effort in getting a signed letter from Mr. Gary Haag, the prime drafter of guidelines and regulations for the DENR on this exact subject. He clearly stated in his letter that this bill is not in the best interest of state. I have some suspicion that this bill is being backed by the governor’s office. There was a strong, anti-regulatory push by Powertech’s lobby complete with theatrics and a good deal of what I believe to be uninformed, misinformation regarding Powertech’s finances and stability as a reputable company. It went on to the Senate floor where it passed 29 to 2. It goes next to the House State Affairs committee next week.

Other bills of ancillary interest:

HB 1177, the so-called Eminent Domain bill is one that Dakota Rural Action (DRA) has worked very hard on. It was killed by its sponsor, Rep. Verchio, when the Attorney General, DOT, and the governor’s office decided they did not want to work on a compromise. DRA’s lobbyist, Luke Temple, was disappointed but said they would continue to pursue a draft of an Eminent Domain bill for the 2012 session over the summer with all interested parties.

HB 1178, an act “to restrict the entry of conservation officers onto certain private land without permission” was discussed yet one more time. It is my understanding that some form of this bill has come up 6 times during the last eight legislative sessions and got a “do pass” twice, including this time. It is a bill with significant ramifications regarding the enforcement of game laws in the state and seems to be an almost annual attempt by a handful of legislators, mostly from the western part of the state, to keep Conservation Officers from entering private property without permission to check game licenses. It would in effect greatly hinder COs from doing their job in a timely, effective manner. Chris Hesla, lobbyist for the SD Wildlife Federation, called this the most important bill for him of the session. This bill will go to the House floor next week. I hope it will be killed one more time.

Please thank Sen. Angie Buhl (D-Sioux Falls) for her singular support in opposing SB 158 and Sen. Jason Frerichs (D-Wilmot) for introducing SB 180.

I wish I could report better news this week.

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