Keystone Pipeline leak fuels PUC lawsuit

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SIOUX FALLS - TransCanada estimates 16,800 gallons may have leaked from the Keystone Pipeline into a field south of Freeman.

The leak was first spotted by a landowner on Saturday, but it's still not clear how long the pipeline was leaking before it was caught.

For now, the entire pipeline remains shut down while officials investigate and clean-up.

The leak is a nightmare scenario for many landowners in the area, which is why groups of them continue to fight the prospect of the Keystone XL Pipeline in state court.

The Keystone XL Pipeline may be dead for now, but a lawsuit to fight it is alive and well.

Earlier this year, President Obama blocked construction of the controversial pipeline weeks before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission re-certified the project.

Keystone XL Pipeline protesters believe a recent leak in Freeman gives them new fuel in their fight against the state.

Attorney Peter Capossela said "many tribes, and non-Indians continue to press their concerns on the possibility of constructing the Keystone XL Pipeline, particularly in light of the recent spill."

While Obama blocked the building of the keystone XL, the South Dakota PUC re-certified its construction permit.

South Dakota Public Utilities chairman Chris Nelson said "it doesn't hinge upon what may or may not have happened on some other pipeline, it hinges upon the criteria that are laid out in state law. That's what we evaluated, and how we made our decision."

Several groups including Dakota Rural Action, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Yankton Sioux Tribe, an inter-tribal organization and several individual interveners filed an appeal against the PUC's decision. Now, those lawsuits will be compiled into one.

"The PUC will obviously go to court, the pipeline company will go to court, and we will explain to the judge how we arrived at the decision we did, and why we feel that is on legally sound ground based on the laws of the state of South Dakota," Nelson said.

"There will be one appeal, with very many parties, from disparate backgrounds perhaps, but with a common interest in ensuring that their communities remain safe, that their environment remains healthy," Capossela said.

A circuit court judge in Pierre is expected to issue an order on the consolidating the lawsuits against the PUC into one appeal next week.

One of the lawsuits against the PUC takes issue with the loss of the federal permit, as well as not having full access to TransCanada's emergency management response plan for any potential spills.