The North Dakota Public Service Commission has scheduled a formal hearing on Energy Transfer Partners’ plan to double the capacity of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The pipeline capacity would go from 500,000 barrels a day to 1.1 million barrels a day. The company plans to do that by adding five compressors. They would be built in Emmons County. And that’s why the hearing will be held in Linton Nov. 13th.
The commission received a number of comments, asking for the formal hearing. Commissioner Randy Christmann weighed-in on what the hearing will not be about.
"It's not a hearing on anything other than the application," Christmann said. "It's not about whether fossil fuels should be used on Earth, or all these extraneous things."
Commission chairman Brian Kroshus said if the PSC had decided not to hold a formal hearing, that decision probably would have ended up in the courts.
"That takes about 5 to 6 months or longer, to go through the court system," Kroshus said. "The courts would have likely ruled that you need to have a hearing. So from a practical standpoint, we were going to end up in a hearing situation, regardless."
The hearing will be held in the Emmons County Courthouse Auditorium. Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said that space will hold around 200 people. And Fedorchak says if warranted, security measures will be implemented.
"They have metal detectors that can be used," Fedorchak said. "They will be used if law enforcement deems it necessary. Access can be limited, and there are security cameras."
Construction of the pipeline underneath the Missouri River, and north of the Standing Rock Reservation, was the subject of a huge protest in 2016 and 2017. It spurred the state to increase security and install metal detectors at the entrance to the state Capitol in Bismarck.
Kroshus said he hopes the extra measures won’t be needed.
"I really do hope it's a reasonable discussion," Kroshus said. "It would be far more productive in terms of the hearing process itself."
The PSC has the option of extending the hearing into the next day.