Keystone XL decision postponed
By Anthony Varriano
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
In a conference call Friday afternoon, senior State Department officials said they would be extending the period for agencies to submit their views on the Keystone XL pipeline Presidential Permit application due to a Nebraska Supreme Court case that may result in altering the route of the proposed pipeline. The officials said the deadline for agencies to submit their findings would be approximately 14 days after the Nebraska court ruling is made, which could be months away.
Officials also cited the “unprecedented” 2.5 million public comments submitted regarding the pipeline as another reason for an extension. The highest previous total for public comments was 1.5 million, and the State Department wants to consider each comment before making a decision.
County Commissioner Jim Skillestad said despite the lower number of jobs predicted by the State Department for Keystone XL, the pipeline will create ongoing government jobs as a result of taxes paid.
According to the Montana Association of Counties, Dawson County stands to raise anywhere from $9 to $16 million in taxes assessed on the pipeline every year for 25 years. Dawson County’s total budget this year was just under $19 million.
“According to MACo, spending those funds will be up to the discretion of the county commissioners,” Skillestad said.
Skillestad added that he’d like to see the funds used to repair some of Glendive’s infrastructure, citing the new sewer treatment plant and county roads as examples.
“There’s a lot of infrastructure in Dawson County that needs to be taken care of, and some of that money could be used for equipment and extra employees.”
According to Skillestad, Keystone XL will create more long-term government jobs, and once those jobs are created they don’t go away very often, whether they’re needed or not.
“Throughout the recession, even at the state and local level, government has gained jobs,” Montana Department of Labor and Industry chief economist Barbara Wagner said. She cited the 2010 Census and the federal stimulus package as reasons for the job increases.
According to Skillestad, the Dawson County Commissioners are behind Keystone XL. Skillestad has already signed a contract with TransCanada leasing his land.
Anthony Varriano can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.