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September 17, 2014 Keystone XL Lost Opportunities Tour: Winner, South Dakota

People here know what opportunities for economic development have been lost by the pipeline’s six-year delay.

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Sean Hackbarth Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline in Winner, South Dakota. Winner, SD.

Miles traveled: 896.

2:00 p.m.

After Buffalo, we traveled to Rapid City to chat with local supporters. After going to see Mount Rushmore—it was breathtaking—we drove to Murdo, South Dakota, home town of Senator John Thune (R-SD) and spent the night. The next morning after a hearty breakfast—pancakes, eggs, and bacon for me—with local pipeline supporters, we drove to Winner.

Winner is a South Dakota town of 3,000 and is popular with pheasant hunters from all over the country who visit every fall.

Welcome to Winner, South DakotaWelcome to Winner, South Dakota


Over a lunch of hamburgers and sandwiches, local business leaders and community officials told us about the lost opportunities for economic development in their area because of the pipeline’s delay.

According to John Meyer, owner of Office Products Center, the Keystone XL pipeline “would be a good economic shot in the arm” for Winner. “So many times we are bypassed due to no interstate, not enough power, no natural gas, employee base, and so on.”

He explained that the pipeline’s pump stations will need a lot of electricity, and transmission lines will be brought in to accommodate that demand. Those lines will let Winner market itself to other industries that also rely on them . The area will be able to “add wind farms now that we have the transmission line” Meyer said, “increasing the property tax base and creating permanent jobs.”

Lunch with Keystone XL supporters in Winner, South Dakota.Lunch with Keystone XL supporters in Winner, South Dakota.Lunch with Keystone XL supporters in Winner, South Dakota.


In 2012, Meyer testified about the pipeline before the Senate for the U.S. Chamber about the pipeline.

Federal government estimates that Winner and Tripp County will see $3.4 million in new property tax revenue in the first year of the pipeline’s operation.

“On a local level, what could a million dollars do for our county, schools, library, etc.? On a state level, what could it do for improvements, teachers’ pay?” Meyer asked

Another lost opportunity from the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline has hit farmers who are finding it difficult to ship their grain.

Tom Kauer, president of the South Central Development Corporation, told us that as more Canadian oil travels by rail, less grain can be moved.  “Millions of bushels are sitting on the ground,” he said.

What's more, without the Keystone XL pipeline, there are plans to put more Canadian oil on trains. “We don’t have the rail for more trains,” worries Winner Mayor Jess Keesis.

As you can see, people in Winner know what opportunities for economic development have been lost by the pipeline’s six-year delay. But they remain optimistic.

How couldn’t you in a place called, “Winner?”

Follow the Keystone XL Lost Opportunities Tour with the #KXLtour hashtag, on Twitter (@energy21), on Facebook, and at the Energy Institute’s website.

September 17, 2014 Keystone XL Lost Opportunities Tour: Doolittle/Wagner Ranch Near Buffalo, SD

The lost opportunities from the pipeline’s delay are the missing local tax revenue, permanent jobs, and less energy security.

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Sean Hackbarth Jim Doolittle at the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch.Jim Doolittle at the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch.
Buffalo, SD

Miles traveled: 560

9:00 am (Sep. 16)

I’m standing in a pasture. The grass around me is greener than it usually is because Buffalo has already gotten three-times the amount of rain they usually get.

Earlier, we stopped at the #3 Saloon to meet Jim Doolittle and his wife Karen Wagner, owners of the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch.

Their 13,000-acre ranch is considered to be “average size” by South Dakota standards, according to Jim. I’m used to Wisconsin dairy farms that have only a few hundred acres and 60 dairy cows. Karen tells me the ranch has been in their family for about 100 years.

We met Jim and Karen, because the Keystone XL pipeline will run for three miles across their ranch on its way to Nebraska. These landowners understand that energy infrastructure can coexist with responsible land management.

After getting some background about the ranch, we hopped into trucks, drove a few miles out of town, and passed through an open gate into the pasture I’m standing in.

To my left is a fenced in area. It looks like a pen for cattle but instead of animals, it will hold pipe and construction material for the pipeline. Beyond the pen is a grass-covered ridge going down to a river below. Some cattle are grazing there.

Panorama of the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch near Buffalo, South Dakota.Panorama of the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch near Buffalo, South Dakota.The Doolittle/Wagner Ranch near Buffalo, South Dakota.


Jim tells us that the Keystone XL pipeline will be a “big significant increase from a tax standpoint.” It’s expected that Buffalo and Harding County will get $3.9 million in property tax revenue in the first full year of the Keystone XL’s operation, a 145% increase. But because of the delay, the local community is missing out on using the tax revenue for a new athletic facilities and other school improvements.

It will also have a “big permanent impact as well,” Jim adds. To power the pump houses that will push the oil along, new electricity facilities will have to be built. Jim explains that permanent jobs will be created to maintain those facilities.

Wooden marker where the Keystone XL pipeline will travel through the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch.

Wooden marker where the Keystone XL pipeline will travel through the Doolittle/Wagner Ranch.


To the pipeline’s critics, Jim noted, “Pipelines aren’t a new concept.” Americans have lived for decades with thousands of miles of pipelines below their feet.

Then Jim walks us a few hundred feet away from the future pipe lot to a small wooden marker, about two-feet tall. Its cracked surface was once painted bright pink. Now, it’s weathered brown and grey. [See the top photo.] A few years ago, TransCanada drove that marker into the ground showing where the center of the pipeline will pass.

I look to the north to the U.S.-Canada border where I was on Monday. The Keystone XL pipeline will travel past a small windmill on a hill in the distance, go under the river, up a bank, across the pasture, then under a road on it’s way south. I stand in front of that wooden stick and realize, the pipeline will pass below my feet. 

For Jim and Karen, the lost opportunities from the Keystone XL pipeline’s delay are the missing local tax revenue, permanent jobs that would be created, and reduced energy security.

Follow the Keystone XL Lost Opportunities Tour with the #KXLtour hashtag, on Twitter (@energy21), on Facebook, and at the Energy Institute’s website.

September 16, 2014 Keystone XL Lost Opportunities Tour: Gascoyne, North Dakota

These stacks of North American steel have been sitting in a field for 3 1/2 years.

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