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Comment Now on Supplemental EIS on Keystone XL Pipeline

June 3, 2011

The U.S. State Department’s 2010 draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on TransCanada’s Keystone XL tarsands pipeline was so bad, it got the Environmental Protection Agency’s lowest rating, and it had to issue a second, supplemental EIS.  But the Supplemental EIS is not much better.

Tell the State Department that the latest EIS isn’t good enough to justify condemning public land for an unsafe pipeline that isn’t needed.

Send in your comments by June 6 by clicking on this link


Earth Day Banquet May 7: Order Tickets Now!

April 10, 2011

Spring is springing: so are Earth Day and the SDRC Earth Day Awards Banquet! The South Dakota Resources Coalition will award the 2011 South Dakota Resource Award to Shirly Holt at its Earth Day banquet to be held May 7 at the Shady Beach Supper Club on Lake Cochrane, near Gary, SD.  You are cordially invited to join us in honoring Shirly for her work on the preservation of the quality of Lake Cochrane.

To learn how to get tickets, check our Awards Banquet page. To learn more about Shirly Holt’s good work protecting water quality on Lake Cochrane, read her bio at the top of our Earth Day Honorees page. We look forward to seeing you all at Lake Cochrane May 7!

South Dakota Can Do Better Than Hyperion

March 9, 2011

Tell Gov. Daugaard:
Oppose the Hyperion Refinery!

Our friends at the Sierra Club urge us all to contact Governor Dennis Daugaard and urge him to withdraw South Dakota’s support for the proposed Hyperion oil refinery in Union County:

The proposed Hyperion oil refinery would discharge more air pollution per refined barrel than any other refinery in the U.S., diminishing the quality of life in rural Union County and threatening public health in southeastern South Dakota and northwest Iowa.

The project’s promoters have never built or managed an oil refinery, and with this their first foray, they would be refining tar sands crude oil, the dirtiest crude in the world!

Tell the Governor that our state can strengthen and improve our economy without adding massive pollution and driving people from their homes.

The South Dakota government has supported this project, but we must ask new Governor Dennis Daugaard to reconsider that support.

Please send a message to Governor Daugaard and tell him it is a mistake to invite Hyperion to our state.

Building a massive, polluting oil refinery on productive, fertile farm land is economic development in reverse. The Hyperion oil refinery project is not in our state’s best interest, especially because it promises to introduce massive air and water pollution.

We can do better than Hyperion, and we must do better.


Peter Carrels
Sierra Club South Dakota

P.S. For more information on the proposed Hyperion Oil Refinery and why the Sierra Club opposes it, visit our new website:

Legislative Weekly Report: Feb 21-Feb 27, 2011

February 27, 2011

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

SB 180 (the pipeline reclamation bill) was killed in committee on Tuesday morning 5-2. It was not even a close vote. Senators Buhl and Adelstein voted for this piece of legislation and need to be commended. The proposed $30 million mitigation/reclamation fund was in my opinion pitifully small but nonetheless never got to see the light of day in the state Senate.

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 in the House State Affairs committee 5-8. The committee was heavily stacked with pro-business conservatives. Four of the Republicans on that committee were signed on as co-sponsors of that bill including Chairman Lust so those minds were already made up. All four Democrats voted against this piece of legislation along with one Republican. Again, this was disappointing.

This hearing was characterized by some curiously odd statements made by the two proponents. Mr. Hollenbeck, Powertech’s Edgemont representative, stated that he gives his four children fresh cow’s milk and believes that makes him “a radical environmentalist”. Mr. Larry Mann, Powertech’s lobbyist, contradicted himself stating, “how good of a job the state DENR does” but apparently, he would rather not have them watching Powertech’s operations too closely. He favors the EPA.

Regarding the EPA, Ms. Rebecca Leas, an opponent who testified against this bill, stated that the EPA has only one representative in their Denver regional office that has to cover all the uranium industry’s mining activity in six western states. She further added that she had a very difficult time actually making contact with this representative and talking to him on the telephone. To say the local EPA is stretched thin may be the understatement of the entire session. If they were stretched any thinner, they would be invisible.

SB 158 goes to the House Floor next week and if it passes will go on to the Governor’s desk for signing or veto. Call or email your district legislators stating that you oppose SB 158 and “believe it’s in the best interests of the people of the state and their health to keep local DENR regulatory control in monitoring the uranium mining industry in the Black Hills.”

Other bills of ancillary interest:

HB 1178, an act “to restrict the entry of conservation officers onto certain private land without permission” was soundly defeated 48 nays to 21 yeas yet again on the House Floor this week. Apparently, this piece of legislation will ultimately require a silver bullet or have a stake driven in its heart to keep it from coming back next year.

We did help to stop two very bad bills that would have made it difficult to pass on conservation easements to willing buyers and/or heirs. We also encouraged the beginning of some good tax equalization legislation that will give a break to people who keep their land in grass. This will be important legislation in the future with the great surge in demand for corn, soybean and wheat products.

Thank you all for your support this session. This will be my last posting.

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.

Uranium Mining Bill Heads to House

February 20, 2011

Senate Bill 158 made it out of the Senate last week. We need to stop it in the House! This bill is moving very quickly, so we need to act fast.

SB 158 would remove state regulation of in situ leach uranium mining. At the Senate hearing, the only people who spoke for the bill were Powertech Uranium Corp. employees. This company wants to mine in the southern Black Hills. State regulators have been holding the company to the law, so the company is trying to do away with state regulation.

Uranium exploration has taken place all around the Black Hills and in the southeastern part of the state. So passage of this bill would impact a wide area. We need to re-double our efforts. Please contact your own House members—and any others you have time to contact—TODAY and ask them to vote against SB 158!

You may also want to focus attention on members of the House State Affairs Committee, which will see the bill next.

Following is a list of concerns about removing the state regulations on uranium mining.

  1. SB 158 would remove state regulation on in situ leach uranium mining, a dangerous, radioactive industry that always pollutes water. This would remove an important safety net for people across the state.
  2. State regulations do not duplicate federal regulations. State regulations are more detailed and—among other things—give the public a chance to be heard in the permitting process, require notification in case of an accident, insure that in situ mine facilities are built according to strict safety standards, and insure that mine sites are cleaned up properly.
  3. A Canadian uranium company put this bill forward and was the only entity to testify for the bill in the Senate Committee hearing. The bill is obviously self-serving and would benefit a foreign corporation at the expense of South Dakota residents.
  4. This bill would turn regulation over to the federal government. Why should we give regulation of this industry over to the federal government, when we know federal regulations are not necessarily best for South Dakota or South Dakotans? If we wish to cut regulation, we should work to have federal rules suspended.
  5. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources is doing a good job of regulating the mining permit process. This is why a uranium company wants to suspend state regulation.
  6. Federal government offices are in Denver and Chicago. How quickly will they get here when there are the inevitable spills and leaks?
  7. According to the DENR, this legislation would not save the State any money.
  8. The company pushing this bill, like most uranium companies active in the state, is small, new and financially unstable. The company has been on the edge financially for some time. Private investors withdrew their support, and the stock now sells at 50 cents a share. We need to safeguard our state Treasury by protecting against operators that could leave an expensive mess behind.

This bill, initiated and supported by a single company, is a desparate attempt by that company to stay alive—at the expense of those who depend on quality groundwater for their livelihood and their lives.

Legislative Update #5: February 7-13, 2011

February 11, 2011

submitted by Edward Raventonlobbyist for the SD Chapter of the Sierra Club

HB 1195, an attempt to undermine and/or nullify every conservation easement attached to a piece of property sold in the state was killed in committee 10 to 3. We worked hard to kill this bill and I want to thank everyone who contacted his or her legislators to oppose it. It had wide opposition at the hearing from conservation lobbyist, private citizens and the State Bar and Municipal League on legal grounds. I hope we don’t have to deal with the issue again for a while.

HB 1166, an act “to restrict, under certain circumstances, the transfer of certain land parcels by the federal government” attempted to do the same thing as HB 1195 by subjecting every conservation easement land sale in excess of 30 acres to the Federal Government (i.e. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) to the public scrutiny of local county commissions. It was also killed. Chris Hesla, Paul Lepisto and I were primary in testifying against this anti-conservation piece of legislation.

We got clobbered 12 to 0 on HB 1047, a bill to “revise certain prairie dog shooting season provisions”. This bill rolled back every regulation regarding the shooting of prairie dogs. The usual ranchers south of the Conata Basin showed up with their hard luck stories of ranching in the marginal, near desert conditions of the Badlands. It’s a tough place to scratch out a living in the cow business but I can’t fault the prairie dogs for loving the Conata Basin area. It is ideal habitat for them due to the sparse, scarcity of grass. Prairie Dogs were nonetheless excoriated, demonized and railed against by the committee along with the Black footed ferret.

Essentially this bill if enacted into law will simply legalize an already, fairly common de facto practice of shooting prairie dogs whenever they want. I believe its limited over all effect will be more psychological than practical.

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 deferred until next Tuesday. I will support this piece of legislation along with Dakota Rural Action’s lobby and feel fairly confident that it has a good chance of passing out of committee.

SB 158 is a pro-industry, uranium mining bill that seeks to “toll (i.e. suspend) the Department of Environment and Natural Resources administrative rules on underground injection control Class III wells and in situ leach mining until the department obtains primary enforcement authority of the comparable federal programs”. This bill is an attempt to bypass the State DENR local regulatory authority in favor of the authority of the EPA and the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), national agencies distantly removed from where the actual mining is proposed to take place. The site is in the Dewey-Burdock area on the far western side of the Black Hills, northwest of Edgemont on the Wyoming line. It is remote even by SD standards and will need to be carefully and effectively monitored locally as the mining company is another foreign Canadian enterprise like Brohm Mining which created and then abruptly left an ugly superfund site in the northern Black Hills when it went bankrupt in 1999. This bill was deferred until next Tuesday morning. I will oppose it vigorously next week.