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South Dakota Weekly Legislative Report: January 22-28, 2012

January 29, 2012

from the South Dakota Chapter of the Sierra Club

There are only a few bills I’ll be watching next week. One is Sen. Frerichs’s Senate Bill 126 which requires TransCanada to file proof of an indemnity bond in the amount of five hundred million dollars that covers the operation and maintenance of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The indemnity bond will be available to landowners and counties to restore, by payment, any damages to land, infrastructure, or natural resources.

A pipeline indemnity bond bill proposal has been killed the last three legislative sessions. I doubt this one will have much of a chance either as one legislator, a co-sponsor of this bill told me—and I quote, “TransCanada owns the legislature”. The bill first has to get a “do pass” from the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee.

House Bill 1098 repeals certain provisions providing for the tolling of administrative rules dealing with underground injection control Class III wells and in situ leach mining relating to uranium. This bill seeks to re-instate the State DENR as the primary regulatory authority in monitoring the underground injection control permit by repealing the law they just passed in the 2011 session. It’s unlikely the legislature will undo what they just did given that the bill passed both houses with very solid majorities in 2011. Like TransCanada, Powertech Uranium, the company behind
the tolling of the DENR, has solid backing in the legislature. While all the uranium mining work is now presently under the regulatory authority of the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Powertech Uranium still has to apply for a water rights permit and a ground water discharge permit under the DENR.

HB 1087 is a critical bill I will be testifying against when it reaches the House Ag. & Nat. Res. committee. HB 1087 limits the period of a conservation easement created after July 1, 2012 for a period of no more than thirty years. This bill restricts the rights of landowners who want to provide for wildlife habitat for a longer period of time, an obvious impingement of personal property rights. I hope and expect there will be a good turnout of conservationists and landowners to oppose this piece of legislation.

Remember, legislators and bureaucrats pay attention to their constituents who make an effort to watch and follow them on what they are doing so I continue to urge you to get involved to the extent you feel comfortable.

To check out bills, access the SD state Legislative Research Council (LRC) homepage http://legis.state.sd.us/, then click on “Current Legislative Session” and then “Bills”. The easiest way to send an email to a legislator is to go to the LRC homepage, click on “Current Legislators” then click on the legislator you want to contact. Write a brief message in the box and then click Send. You will also find a phone number and mailing address in their contact information if you want to make your message more personal, which tends to make for a longer lasting impression. Whatever method you choose, try to make your message brief, concise and to the point as well as polite and respectful. Your input does make a difference.

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In other legislative news, DENR Secretary Steve Pirner gave an assessment to the Senate Ag & Nat. Res committee last Tuesday regarding the current status of environmental issues in the state. I have bulleted his points as follows:

  • 1,900 oil and gas wells have been drilled to date mostly in the northwest part of the state. A digital file with a map location is available online for every one of these holes. Each hole also has a lithography record. Mr. Pirner stated that all this work was done at the request of the Governor who is strongly pushing for more oil and gas development in the state.
  • In total, the state has more than 100,000 drill holes of which 62,000 are water wells. All of these holes are also pinpointed on a digital map complete with lithography and/or a geophysical record. You can access this information by going to the DENR’s homepage.
  • Wharf’s gold mine expansion of 530 acres in the northern Black Hills was approved.
  • Dakota Energy, an oil and gas company has drilled two exploratory test holes west of Bear Butte. They are approved to drill five more.

Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones gave his assessment to the Senate Ag & Natural Resource committee last Tuesday regarding the current status of agricultural issues. I have bulleted his points as follows:

  • Agriculture is the state’s number one industry that generated $21 billion worth of income in 2011.
  • State Fair attendance was up 7.5% at 191,000 people all of which has been generating more exhibits and tax revenue.
  • There has been a decrease of noxious weeds (leafy spurge, knapweed, mullein, and toadflax) on 1 million acres in the state.
  • The department has been very successful in organizing the proper disposal of discarded pesticide containers.
  • The Mountain Pine Beetle infestation in the Black Hills continues to grow exponentially. MPB infestation doubled in 2010 and tripled in 2011. 400,000 acres of pine trees are currently infested in the Black Hills representing about one quarter of the entire forest with 95% in the National
  • Forest and the remainder on private property.

submitted by
Edward Raventon
Sierra Club Lobbyist

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