SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The Democratic candidate for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson says the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline is a "big money con" that would bring great risk and little benefit to South Dakota.
Rick Weiland said the only ones who will benefit from the project are TransCanada and the company's investors. He cites a U.S. State Department report that found that although pipeline construction would create thousands of temporary jobs, it would result in just 35 permanent full-time positions.
"That's not a jobs program for the United States, but that's the way they've tried to sell it," Weiland said.
Keystone XL is intended to transport more than 800,000 barrels of Canadian tar sands oil a day to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Supporters say the pipeline will create thousands of jobs and aid energy independence. Environmentalists warn of possible spills and say tar sands oil is especially "dirty" and will contribute to global warming.
The project requires State Department approval because it crosses an international border.
Weiland's Republican opponent, former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, said the project has been held up for political reasons as part of President Barack Obama administration's vendetta against carbon-based energy. Rounds said he'd prefer that the country develop energy domestically rather than send its money overseas to the Middle East and Russia.
"Once it's in the market, it's part of the world market," Rounds said. "But the more that you bring in and the more that you develop on the North American continent, the more independent we are of those parts of the world that really cause problems for us."
The Obama administration in April said it was putting off its decision on whether to approve the pipeline indefinitely. A decision now isn't expected until after the November elections.
Former Republican Sen. Larry Pressler, who is running as an independent, said South Dakota state officials "gave away the store" in allowing the original Keystone pipeline to pass through the state. Officials should have insisted that the project allow for a needed Missouri River water pipeline with the right-of-way and include a triple-damages agreement for any environmental breaches, Pressler said.
"They'd be much more careful," he said.
Pressler said Keystone XL will do little to ease the strain that North Dakota Bakken oil production has put on the rail system that also moves agriculture commodities in and out of the state. The majority of the oil moving through the pipeline will originate in Canada, and most of it will be placed on cargo ships and sent to China and Japan, he said.
"South Dakota gets nothing out of this, and the United States of America gets very little out of it," Pressler said. "What South Dakota really needs is the Bakken oil to be moved by pipeline."
Former state lawmaker Gordon Howie, who also is running as an independent, said Keystone XL is a good project that needs to move forward. Howie said Congress needs to strip away unnecessary regulations so the country can explore energy sources that won't need long-term government subsidies to be profitable.
"America is rich in resources and we have a government that wants to limit the development of those resources and keep America dependent on foreign energy," he said.
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