Keystone XL Pipeline for South Dakota

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe (RST) of South Dakota retained TGG in 2015 to provide expert testimony in the Keystone XL (KXL) permit recertification case before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC). TGG’s written expert testimony, Changes to the Economic Costs and Benefits of the Keystone XL Pipeline for South Dakota, was filed on behalf of the RST in April 2015 (and withdrawn in July 2015).

TGG’s expert report demonstrated that there had been changes in a number of important underlying facts related to economic costs and benefits of the project, since the original construction permit was issued. Based on the conclusions of pipeline safety expert Richard Kuprewicz, TGG estimated a range of worst-case scenario costs starting at US$1 billion and escalating to $2 billion or more for a very high consequence event. Given KXL’s very small employment and property tax benefits, TGG concluded that, under a range of worst-case scenarios, the costs of the pipeline would greatly exceed the benefits for South Dakota.

Background: In 2008, TransCanada proposed KXL, with a 1,179-mile (now 1,210-mile), 36-inch pipeline to carry up to 860,000 barrels per day of tar sands crude from Alberta (via Saskatchewan, Montana and the Dakotas) to Steele City, Nebraska. KXL would connect there with the existing Keystone Pipeline system, transporting the crude for delivery to the US Gulf Coast. The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission granted a construction permit for this state’s portion of KXL in 2010.

By 2011, KXL had become a flashpoint for climate activism and pipeline opponents throughout North America and was already the object of multiple legal and regulatory challenges, which delayed project construction. Since 2013, the RST has vigorously opposed the KXL pipeline through various strategies, including long-term legal and regulatory challenges, coalition-building with other KXL opponents (Indigenous, landowners and environmentalists) and protests.

Because construction in South Dakota did not begin within four years of the 2010 permit approval, TransCanada had to demonstrate to the PUC that the project continued to meet the conditions of the original permit. This recertification case attracted significant opposition, and the RST obtained intervenor status.

Update: In January 2016, the South Dakota PUC renewed KXL’s permit, despite the the pipeline having been recently rejected at the federal level. In November 2015, President Obama rejected the pipeline (by refusing to grant the required presidential permit), concluding that KXL was not in the US national interest. The PUC’s decision was appealed at the South Dakota Sixth Judicial Circuit and then at the South Dakota Supreme Court, which dismissed the appeal in June 2018.

During the Trump presidency, legal challenges and other opposition to KXL have again intensified. Trump signed an executive memorandum inviting TransCanada to resubmit its application for expedited approval in January 2017 (just days after taking office). In March 2017, a presidential permit was issued authorizing KXL construction. In 2018, a federal court ruling blocked all construction of the pipeline until the State Department revised the environmental review. In 2019, the Trump Administration issued a new permit approving the pipeline. However, in July 2020, the Supreme Court upheld the 2018 federal court ruling, further delaying construction of the pipeline.

On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued an Inauguration Day executive order to rescind the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. For over a decade, KXL was subject to other ongoing legal challenges by Indigenous groups, environmentalists and others in the US. Prior to its recent cancellation by the Biden Administration, construction of KXL continued to be stalled. Moreover, the economic case for the pipeline has continued to weaken. The Canada Energy Regulator (the Canadian FERC) released a report in late November 2020 projecting that if Canada strengthens its climate policies, there be no need for the capacity provided by KXL to export tar sands crude.

See Project Pages for Keystone XL Market Analysis and Keystone XL Job Study for more information about TGG’s work on the economic impacts of KXL.

UPDATE June 9, 2021: TC Energy terminated Keystone XL pipeline months after Biden revoked its permit. Alberta’s final costs for the cancelled project are estimated at C$ 1.3 billion.

Complete TGG Filings

Testimony withdrawn July 17, 2015.

Testimony withdrawn July 17, 2015.

Other Project Products



Sicangu Wicoti Iyuksa (the Rosebud Spirit Camp), 2015; Credit: Paula Antoine / Shield the People