Keystone cancellation hits rural electric companies hard

by WorldTribune Staff, February 17, 2021

President Donald Trump granted TC Energy a presidential permit to construct and operate the XL pipeline in March 2019. In a Jan. 20, 2021 executive order, Joe Biden revoked that permit.

“It basically shut a lot of what we were doing down overnight,” Jeff Birkeland, the CEO of West Central Electric Cooperative in Murdo, South Dakota, told The Epoch Times. “We’re out $90 million, that’s what that means to us.”

Canceling the Keystone XL pipeline is ‘what Washington wants to do — they don’t care about us out here too much.’

Murdo, with a population of less than 1,000, and many other rural communities along what would have been the Keystone XL pipeline’s path are experiencing similar hardship after Biden’s order, The Epoch Times noted in a Feb. 16 report.

Rural electric cooperatives serve 56 percent of the nation and account for about 12 percent of total electricity sales in the United States, according to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

With the pipeline up and running, it was expected to generate more than $100 million in property tax revenue along the route. The pipeline would also contribute $3.4 billion to the GDP of the United States on an annual basis.

Birkeland said that South Dakota will also miss out on $4 million in state sales taxes as a result of Biden’s order canceling Keystone XL.

Additionally, Birkeland said his company now has $14 million worth of materials sitting idly in the warehouse.

“Essentially, this tells me our rates are going up,” he said. “We’re sparsely populated and this load represented growth and opportunity for our members. That’s what’s tough — if you sit at my desk, you’re trying to figure out what’s best for your members.”

Kit Talich, a staff engineer at West Central, told The Epoch Times: “We have been working on this project on and off — through the starts and stops and delays — for about 12 to 13 years now. We put a lot of time into it … so it was a little disappointing to see something like that pulled away with a swipe of a pen and 10 minutes after [Biden was] sworn in.”

Biden’s executive order states that the Keystone XL pipeline “disserves the U.S. national interest,” arguing that the country is facing a “climate crisis.”

Along with the energy industry, Birkeland said countless other local businesses in Murdo, as well as in nearby towns and cities, had spent money to improve their businesses in response to the construction of the pipeline. Now, their money and their investments have gone down the drain.

Talich added: “I would like to see it revived, it would help the local communities a lot. Again, it’s what Washington wants to do — they don’t care about us out here too much.”

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