Environment | Law | National | Politics

Native Sun News: Tribes continue fight against Keystone Pipeline

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

Tribal and Indian leaders spoke out against the Keystone XL Pipeline and asked President Barack Obama to schedule a meeting with Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell to discuss concerns about the controversial project. Photo from Indigenous Environmental Network / Indigenous Rising

Indians carry torch to stop Pipeline
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

PIERRE –– Native American and other interveners in South Dakota’s process for TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL Pipeline permit in the Great Sioux Nation were left to carry the torch of opposition on Jan. 9, when the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill to force federal approval and the Nebraska Supreme Court okayed the contested tar-sands crude-oil route through the neighboring state.

“The fact remains that TransCanada cannot build Keystone XL in South Dakota,” responded Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and Dakota Rural Action (DRA), which are among dozens of non-profit interveners and individuals in the state Public Utilities Commission hearings on certification of the Canadian company’s proposal.

“The Nebraska State Supreme Court decision does not change the facts on the matter. The Keystone XL Pipeline still remains a threat to the livelihoods of America's farmers, ranchers, tribal nations, and individual landowners,” IEN and DRA said in a news release.

The statement followed hot on the heels of pipeline prayer vigils and protest demonstrations across the state and in Washington, D.C. Members of the No KXL Dakota coalition rallied in Rapid City and Sioux Falls, as well as at the state Capitol Rotunda in Pierre.

In Washington’s Lafayette Square, a national coalition of Native American leaders, environmental organizations, and individuals invited like-minded people to come out Jan. 3 to demonstrate that “the Keystone XL Pipeline is not in the national interest, has the potential to contaminate the nation’s largest freshwater aquifer, and puts the lives of all people who live along its path in serious danger.”

The Pierre protest and prayer gathering, held on Jan. 7, coincided with the date of a Public Utilities Commission (PUC) hearing, at which commissioners rejected the intervening Yankton Sioux Tribe’s motion to dismiss TransCanada’s application for renewed certification of the 6-year-old proposal.

TransCanada Corp. President and CEO Russ Girling welcomed the Nebraska court ruling, which overturned a decision that had invalidated the route. The ruling clears the way for U.S. President Barack Obama to act on a federal permit for the company to build across the Canadian-U.S. border.

TransCanada Corp. seeks to add another 1,179 miles to its pipeline system in the U.S., connecting the tar-sands mines of Alberta to refineries and export terminals on the Gulf of Mexico, by running through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

“Now, the federal review of our application can pick up where it left off,” Girling said. “Every aspect of this project has been extensively reviewed and we have repeatedly demonstrated how this project is in America’s national interest,” he said in a written statement.

“National interest” is the deciding factor in the granting of a Presidential Permit.

Girling noted that approval would create 9,000 jobs and help refineries in the United States using the “most efficient and environmentally responsible transportation method possible.”

The Obama Administration has refused to grant the permit on several occasions, despite 10 separate votes in the U.S. House of Representatives to force the hand of the executive branch.

The Sierra Club says the House vote in November was fueled by the oil industry: Representatives who voted for the bill received $39 million from the industry, 10 times the amount received by members who voted against it.

The Administration cites concerns over the project’s impact on U.S. land, water and air, especially in terms of global warming. The State Department notes that only 35 permanent jobs would result in the trade-off.

“The President has all the information he needs to act and reject Keystone XL today,” said IEN and DRA. “This pipeline fails the President's climate test. We encourage him to make the right choice to the benefit of us all."

The most recent House bill to approve the pipeline was passed 266-153 and sent to the Senate, just shortly after the Nebraska Supreme Court ruling.

However, White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said, “Regardless of the Nebraska ruling …, if presented to the President, he will veto the bill."

Tribes and the No KXL Dakota coalition “continue to stand against this dirty pipeline,” the coalition announced. “We South Dakota pipeline fighters stand strong in our commitment to see the Keystone XL permit rejected by our state's Public Utilities Commission and by President Obama.”

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe spirit camp maintained at Ideal by Shield the People, in opposition to the pipeline, issued a similar statement. “Unci Maka is in jeopardy; our Mother Earth is crying. We cannot ignore her,” it said.

“Our strength is each other and our prayer. Our weapons are our minds, our faith, our voices and most of all our unity. Contact our President Obama and ask him to veto the KXL Pipeline Bill and to reject the Presidential Permit for the KXL Pipeline to protect our future and Unci Maka,” it said.

IEN Keystone XL Organizer Dallas Goldtooth published a retort in The Guardian, noting the convergence of indigenous heritage with prevention of global warming.

“Our resistance to the Keystone XL Pipeline and other tar -sand infrastructure is grounded in our inherent right to self-determination as indigenous peoples,” he wrote. “As the original caretakers, we know what it will take to ensure these lands are available for generations to come. This pipeline will leak, it will contaminate the water. It will encourage greater tar-sands development, which, in turn, will increase carbon emissions.

“As Oceti Sakowin people, we cannot stand silent in the face of the potential ecological disaster that the pipeline promises our homelands, along with our brothers and sisters of the Cree and Dene First Nations in Alberta, where this carbon-intensive dirty oil comes from. Our acts of resistance to the Keystone XL Pipeline are a perfect example of us wising up to the ongoing modern colonialist game, and a proactive step toward protecting future generations from the worst impacts of climate change,” he stated.

“This is a make-or-break moment for your climate legacy. Serious progress against climate change requires consistent action, not just words,” he concluded, appealing to Obama to “immediately reject the Keystone XL pipeline and apply your climate test to all federal decisions on fossil fuel projects – whether for domestic use or export.”

Numerous organizations remounted petition drives, such as that of Green America, which lobbies Obama for “rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline completely and ensuring it is never built, and fully evaluating all energy projects for their impacts on climate change and rejecting those with significant impacts.”

Meanwhile, in support of the project, American Commitment started a petition drive calling on members of Congress: "I urge you to vote YES on legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline. And I urge you to oppose any effort to impose new energy taxes."

The Yankton Sioux Tribe told the Public Utilities Commission that TransCanada Corp.’s application for permit renewal should be dismissed as ineligible for certification, because the project, as it stands today, is not the same one submitted in 2010.

TransCanada Corp. argued that “the tribe’s motion is illogical, not consistent with the statute or the facts …, and not supported by any authority.”

The company donated $2,500 for Midland elementary school to purchase five iPads, five protective cases, five earbuds, and a variety of educational applications for the school’s two classrooms.

TransCanada Corp. has launched “Keystone Community Connector”, a new 2015 publication designed to disseminate its activities in towns like Midland, which are on the construction route.

TransCanada Corp. is a sponsor of program activities at the Rapid City-based Chiesman Center for Democracy, which is sponsoring a free monthly series of events through May to train members of the public on involvement in legislative action.

TransCanada’s Keystone Stakeholder Relations team is preparing to host numerous open house events for the general public.

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

Join the Conversation