The U.S. State Department will host the only public meeting over its recently updated draft environmental statement for the Keystone XL pipeline Tuesday in Billings
This is the public’s first and only chance to meet with government officials in an open house to talk about the updated draft environmental statement for the controversial pipeline. A federal judge earlier late last year said the original draft needed further review of potential environmental impacts.
Conservationists, led by the Northern Plains Resource Council, plan to host a rally outside of the meeting to protest what they say is an unfair comments process.
Glendive farmer Dena Hoff helped plan the rally.
Olivia Reingold: So this is going to be run like an open house. What was your first reaction when you heard that?
Dena Hoff: My first reaction, I don’t know if you can even say this on the air, was bulls--t. Everybody else should be able to hear everybody else’s questions and the answers they receive.
According to the State Department, attendees will be able to submit comments through electronic stations, handwritten forms and one-on-one with stenographers but not in a public-hearing format.
"That’s not an open dialogue. That’s not an open and public dialogue," Hoff said.
She says the Department has an obligation to go beyond the letter of the law and really try to educate the public on the potential upsides and downsides to the pipeline.
The State Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment in time for broadcast.
In its draft, the federal agency says it, “encourages public participation in the environmental review process.” It says the Department placed notices of the 45-day comment period in local papers, through the mail and email, and placed hard copies of the draft statement in six Montana libraries. That’s in addition to posting it on their website.
The Tuesday open house meeting will be at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Olivia Reingold is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for America corps member.