South Dakota board approves Keystone XL water permits

FORT PIERRE, SOUTH DAKOTA (AP) – The South Dakota Water Management Board on Tuesday approved five water permit applications for Keystone XL pipeline construction.

The hearing was so contentious that it stretched into a dozen days over the course of four months as American Indian tribes and environmental groups argued against their approval. After holding a brief period for public comment in Fort Pierre on Tuesday, the board met in a closed executive session before voting to approve the permits, with added requirements for real-time monitoring and weekly check-ins with the state.

Opponents can appeal the board’s decision. TC Energy, the Canadian company building the pipeline, applied for permits to tap the Cheyenne, White and Bad rivers in South Dakota during construction. The water will be used for drilling to install pipe, build pump stations and control dust during construction. Two ranchers also applied for water permits to supply backup water to worker camps.

The board allowed three minutes for each person who wanted to comment before the executive session. Two Native American youth – Tatanka Itancan, 17, and his sister Zora Lone Eagle, 13 – with painted handprints on their faces used their three minutes to silently stare at the board in protest. They said they had been refused permission to cross-examine experts during the hearing because they are minors and not represented by an attorney.