YORK – An informal meeting was held Tuesday afternoon between several representatives of the county and TransCanada.
The topic of the discussion was whether or not an earlier agreement between the two entities is still legal and binding.
The 2011 agreement pertains to the use of specific rural roads if the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is constructed.
It was the county's understanding that if the project was denied a presidential permit, the agreement would be null and void. That was also the case if the route changed. Both of those things happened.
So the county commissioners believe the agreement signed in 2011 is no longer binding.
Suggestions have since been made by the public that more requirements be added, should a new agreement be formulated before a decision on the pipeline is made at the federal level.
"Tuesday's meeting was to speak with representatives of TransCanada to see where everyone is at with that 2011 agreement," explained York County Commissioner Chairman Kurt Bulgrin. "The issue is whether it is still in effect. The county leans toward that it is null and void. TransCanada believes that the agreement is intact and still good.
"Those in attendance at Tuesday's meeting, besides myself, were Commissioner Bill Bamesberger, York County Attorney Candace Dick and York County Highway Superintendent/Engineer Mitch Doht," Bulgrin said. "Jeff Rauh, along with one of the company's attorneys, represented TransCanada."
Because only two county board members were present, this was not an official meeting and no formal action was taken. The meeting was not required to be open to the public and public notice was not necessary – although Bulgrin did say during the official meeting of the county board earlier that day that the meeting was going to take place.
"During Tuesday's discussion with TransCanada, we discussed how the county would like to proceed with this process, which will include the formation of a committee representing the county," Bulgrin explained.
The idea of a committee representing the county's interests was first brought to the commissioners by Doht.
"On this committee, we will likely have two members of the county board, the county highway superintendent, an outside engineer, the county attorney and two members of the public," Bulgrin said. "TransCanada has no problem with proceeding forward.
"At our next official meeting of the county commissioners, we will discuss the happenings at the meeting with TransCanada and the board will consider the appointments to this proposed haul route agreement committee," Bulgrin said.
"After that, the committee will meet to discuss the haul route agreement and the two members of the county board (who also sit on the haul route committee) will go to TransCanada to hash out any differences," Bulgrin said further. "The committee will then make recommendations to the county commissioners, which will be done in open forum and all formal action will always be taken by the full county board in public meetings.
"The committee meetings, however, will not be open to the public," Bulgrin said. "The public can rest assured that the only topic to be discussed during these county committee meetings will be the haul route agreement. There will be no discussion regarding the pros and cons of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, there will be no discussion regarding zoning regulations for pipelines. The only topic of discussion will be the haul route with TransCanada and that is it."