OPINION: Amplifying Voices of South Dakota

By Congressman Dan Newhouse

This piece was originally published in the Capital Journal on February 12, 2021.

By now, many of us understand that President Biden’s Executive Order to halt the Keystone XL Pipeline is going to have disastrous effects on our nation’s economy, energy security, and thousands of American jobs. By terminating the Pipeline, we are even risking our international standing and relationship with our Canadian neighbors who have also invested billions of dollars and years of design and permitting to accomplish a first-of-its-kind, innovative oil pipeline – the safest way we have to transfer oil and natural gas resources.

Representative Dusty Johnson understands that we can talk about numbers all day long, but the impacts of this Executive Order go way beyond that. Like a ripple effect, it will impact nearly every American and particularly those in the rural communities who rely on the Pipeline, the workers, and the economic activity that comes along with them. The sense of community that we cherish in rural America is being damaged as pipeline employees are forced to leave their small towns, and the stability that was guaranteed by dozens of local, state, and federal permits, environmental reviews, and court decisions is gone.


The Congressional Western Caucus is a group composed of members from across the United States who proudly serve as a voice for rural America. As Chairman of the Western Caucus, I work with members, like Representative Johnson, to amplify the voices of those who feel they have been ignored by the federal government for far too long. That is why I was grateful that Representative Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) and I were invited to Johnson’s roundtable in Philip to hear directly from the community members, small business owners, and families who have been impacted by the President’s Keystone XL Pipeline decision.

The stories that were shared around the table in Philip were heartbreaking. Tricia Burns, who owns Ignite Wellness Studio, said something that really stuck with me: “We get caught up in dollars and cents, we get caught up in money, we get caught up in the economy – but behind it all, there are human lives that are being destroyed.” She is exactly right, and in order to be effective in Washington, D.C., we have to hear and share these stories.


For South Dakotans, Keystone represents more than just jobs for pipeline workers. It represents an opportunity to modernize our energy infrastructure and strengthen local economies. It represents an opportunity to reinvigorate the small towns where pipeline workers live and work. It represents an opportunity to build upon a strong energy industry and a commitment from the federal government to invest in these communities. On his first day in the White House – with the flick of a pen – President Biden eliminated these opportunities.

Can you imagine if President Trump had unilaterally made the decision to kill thousands of American jobs amidst a global pandemic? It would be a national outrage. Well, we understand that President Biden’s actions are indeed a national outrage, felt by the communities along the Keystone XL Pipeline and beyond.

America needs to keep hearing from the people of South Dakota. I know Representative Johnson will continue to make sure the voices and the stories we listened to at the roundtable continue to be heard in the nation’s capital. We will continue to work together through our efforts in the Western Caucus to strengthen the rural communities of South Dakota and across the country by promoting a strong domestic energy sector, inspiring American innovation and creating good-paying jobs, and ensuring that President Biden understands the true impacts of his reckless executive actions.

Dan Newhouse represents Washington’s 4th Congressional District in Congress and currently serves as Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus. He is a third-generation farmer from Central Washington and previously served as Director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

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