PHILIP, S.D. — In a roundtable session in Philip on Monday, Representative Dusty Johnson listened to the concerns of local community members and small businesses reliant on pipeline workers.
Johnson was joined by Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington.
After President Joe Biden signed an executive order canceling the work permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, small town communities like Philip are left to fill a hole in their local economies.
“Philip’s been a town for quite a while, it’s been slowly – I would say – getting smaller,” said Brandon West, the owner of 73 Bar & Lounge/Motel West. “This is an opportunity, I felt like, to grow our community and now, we’re going to be at a loss.”
Armstrong has recently proposed a bill that takes away the requirement for the presidential permit when it comes to the pipeline, and says that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which TC Partners qualified for, is sufficient.
Business owners, like Laurie Cox, the owner of Stroppel Hotel and Mineral Baths in Midland, invested to try to help fill a need for the pipeline workers.
“We had workers at the door waiting for lodging and that is my biggest thing is this wasn’t just a half hazard, we were responding to a need in our community and in the swipe of a pen, the reason for doing that investment is gone,” Cox said.
Businesses dependent on the customer boost, like Ignite Wellness Studio, lost 45 members of their gym once the pipeline permit was canceled.
“We had people that we became friends with, people that we considered family coming in, some crying saying we have to cancel our membership,” said Tricia Burns, co-owner of Ignite Wellness Studio. “We have to leave.”
But, their stories won’t go untold. Johnson says he has plans of taking their stories to Washington, the stories that show human and economic loss.
“I think this decision was not based on the facts, not based on law,” Rep. Johnson said. “It was very arbitrary and there’s been a very real economic and human cost because of that. The stories we heard today are going help us tell that message across this county.”