On Thursday, the North Dakota Public Service Commission is holding a hearing on issues raised by a third-party construction company – hired to monitor the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The third-party company is concerned that Energy Transfer Partners – the builder of the Dakota Access Pipeline – cleared too many trees in up to 80 different locations along the right-of-way.
Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said the Commission typically allows 50 feet of right of way to be cleared along a pipeline route.
"If they're to go beyond that, they're to get approval from us," Fedorchak said. "They did that in some of the cases, and cleared them up to 75 feet in some cases. But beyond that, the construction inspector is reporting Energy Transfer Partners went up to 120 feet in some areas."
Fedorchak said the specs are established for a reason.
"Trees are hard to grow in western North Dakota," Fedorchak said. "We want to try and keep as many of the trees as possible."
Fedorchak said at this point, there isn’t a complaint. She said it’s just in an investigation stage.
"We just want to sit down with the company and hear from them about what happened here," Fedorchak said. "We can try to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible."
Fedorchak said after that hearing, if the PSC finds there is a violation of its siting order, the Commission would likely issue an “order to show cause” – setting up a more formal hearing process.
The Public Service Commission is also working on resolving a complaint against the builder of the Dakota Access Pipeline for a re-route to avoid cultural resources.
Energy Transfer Partners did not notify the PSC about the route change until after-the-fact. Fedorchak said a formal complaint was filed in this case.
"The company objected to the formal complaint," Fedorchak said. "We denied their objection. Then we issued an order to show cause. The company has objected to that."
The PSC has held a number of “executive sessions” on that particular issue. Fedorchak said the Commission has been trying to dig into the matter – and come up with some sort of resolution.
"Our resources are limited," Fedorchak said. "We don't want this dragging on forever. We want to resolve this and move on."