Hundreds pack Courthouse for DAPL expansion hearing

Published: Nov. 13, 2019 at 8:32 PM CST
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UPDATE: The DAPL Hearing adjourned at 12:30 a.m. Thursday morning.

After 11 hours of expert testimony, more than 30 people for and against the expansion gave public comments. The commission will have more working sessions before rendering a final decision. We’ll have a recap of the public comments tonight on Your News Leader.

ORIGINAL STORY: Hundreds of people are still sitting in the Emmons County Courthouse in Linton giving their thoughts on a proposal to nearly double the amount of oil flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Public Service Commission meeting has been going since 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, hearing from experts for and against the expansion, as well as the people.

Most of the action was up on stage as lawyers for Energy Transfer Partners and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe went after each others witnesses, trying to poke holes in the arguments.

When the hearing ends, the PSC will have the job of figuring out what's next for DAPL.

Crowds are never in short supply with the DAPL hearings, but this time the action wasn't in the seats, but on the stage.

"The risk on a pipeline is not in my knowledge related to the flow rate or velocity in the pipeline. It has no impact on the risk of an incident? No," said an ETP executive during an exchange with Standing Rock's lawyer Tim Purdon.

"It's more than just that velocity. I'll look at velocities to say is there a threat category I need to pursue and when I see velocities that are this high, then I'm going to pay attention to things that can cause surge over pressure," said a witness for the tribe in response to a question from ETP's lawyers.

Lawyers for Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline's parent company, the North Dakota Public Service Commission and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe spent most of the day in what felt like a court case over possibly expanding how much oil goes through the Dakota Access Pipeline Capacity.

Labor unions, many of whom worked in the pipeline, in orange shirts, and Tribal members, in traditional dress or black hand prints on their face, wanted their voices heard.

"Our job was under so much scrutiny. So many safety people, so many inspectors. Every foot of pipe we put in the ground was inspected I don't know how many times," said Mike Scott, a union laborer who helped install the original pipeline.

"I grew up hearing that water is life. That without water, we can't survive and I'd like to see clean drinking water for my future children and grandchildren," said Wanbli Waunsila Wi Eagle, a 19-year-old Standing Rock Sioux Tribe member who traveled to Linton for the hearing.

Standing Rock Chairman Mike Faith says he's thankful the PSC gave the tribe a seat at the table for the proceeding. He wants expansion stopped saying one leak could affect the tribe for years to come.

"We're representing the old, but we're also representing the new, the future young ones. We've got to watch out for them and their best interest," said Faith.

Among the myriad of issues the commissioners have to work out is has ETP done enough to assure them the pipeline's integrity will hold up under the new flows and if by some chance it does, do they have a good enough response plan.

The PSC is hoping to finish the hearing on Wednesday, but said it will go into Thursday if needed. The commissioners said there's no timetable for when a decision would be made, but the commission will likely have multiple working groups before deciding.