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It’s not just dollars and cents, it’s people’s lives

Congressman Dusty Johnson meets with Haakon County business owners and community members to discuss Keystone XL Pipeline cancellation

Business owners and community members came together in Philip for an impromptu roundtable discussion with members of Congress on Monday, February 8.  The subject of the roundtable was to discuss the impact that the cancellation of the Keystone XL Pipeline has had on the communities along its path. Those in attendance, excluding media, were: Trent Manecke, Midland Town Board President; Jerry Kroetch, Scotchman Industries, Inc.; Glenn and Rita O’Connell, O’Connell Construction; Dale Morrison, NAPA and Morrison’s Pit Stop; Jeff Birkeland, WCE Cooperative; Philip City Council Members Marion Matt, Marty Gartner, Brit Miller; City Administrator Brittany Smith; Laurie Cox, Stroppel Hotel; Branden West, 73-Bar and Motel West; Marty and Tricia Burns, Ignite Wellness Studio; Tyrone Moos, M&A Farms; Mike Albrecht, Scotchman Industries, Inc.; Mike Moses, Moses Building Center; Kory Bierle, Midland, S.D.; Shad Riggle, WCE Cooperative; Representatives Kelly Armstrong, North Dakota; Dusty Johnson, South Dakota; and Dan Neuhause, Washington.
The cancellation came after President Joe Biden revoked the project’s Presidential permit in January, a decision that TC Energy says, “would overturn an unprecedented, comprehensive regulatory process that lasted more than a decade and repeatedly concluded the pipeline would transport much needed energy in an environmentally responsible way while enhancing North American energy security.”
“They have been very good to work with. I have no problems with them,” said Tyrone Moos of TC Energy and members of the Keystone XL Pipeline project. Moos is the owner of approximately 60 acres that are leased for the man camp north of Philip.  “We need to have this pipeline because we farm and we burn diesel fuel,” he added.
West Central Electric (WCE) Cooperative CEO, Jeff Birkeland, stated that over the course of eight years, an estimated $11.2 million dollars in revenue will be lost annually, totalling an estimated $90 million. Birkeland added that both the Haakon and Jones County school districts would have obtained $105,000 per district annually from WCE. Representative Newhouse asked for clarification of  the figures Birkeland provided, adding that they are not only short-term project construction benefits, but the long-term benefits have yet to be realized. “Half a million a year in sales tax,” said Birkeland, in regards to the operation itself. “From what we’ve lost, we’re looking at $1.7 million in lost opportunity,” he said. “$4 million in sales tax [lost]. I’m pretty sure the state would like that,” he added. “It’s mind boggling.”
Birkeland stated that since 2008, WCE has been working with TC Energy, formerly TransCanada, and no matter its route, that one thing that has never changed, “this oil is going to market.”
Midland Town Board President, Trent Manecke, stated that the pipeline was set to bring and was bringing increased revenue into their small town, partly due to the Stroppel Hotel housing workers.
Maybe even more important than dollars and cents, are the lives being played with. “They became our family,” said Tricia Burns, owner of Ignite Wellness Studio of the pipeline workers and families that stayed in the area. “It’s not as simple as saying these jobs are temporary,” said Representative Kelly Armstrong, North Dakota. “This is real human cost,” he added.
Business members were given the opportunity to talk about the investments they made in regards to the pipeline project. Rita and Glenn O’Connell, owners of O’Connell Construction, stated that they invested $100,000 in providing gravel for the project, as well as additional money for equipment.
Burns, Ignite Wellness Studio, said that by the grace of God, though they had not directly invested personally, they were contacted by two security companies last April. The companies requested 120 membership contracts (60 each) for pipeline security employees. Burns said that plans were in place to expand or rearrange the studio in order to accomodate new members, while remembering to support the local members who have supported them since day one.  Burns touched on how accomodating both companies were, requesting the hours in which they would not interfere with locals utilizing the space. Burns stated that COVID hit the studio hard, resulting in the loss of 45 memberships since last April and that the new contracts provided them the boost they needed to keep going. Based on a $50 monthly membership for a single individual, this could have resulted in an estimated $72,000 in additional revenue for the studio.
Other members present echoed the same stories of investments made, whether financially or emotionally. Also mentioned during the roundtable was the almost stagnant growth of Haakon County over the last few years. But with the pipeline project, the community was set to see a resurgence they haven’t seen in a long time.
Recently, Congressman Armstrong introduced the Keystone XL Pipeline Construction and Jobs Preservation Act. This piece of legislation authorizes the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline and declares that a Presidential permit is not required. More information on this legislation can be found on Armstrong’s website at:


The Pioneer Review

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