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Tara Houska: Respect treaties and reject Keystone XL Pipeline

Reject and Protect: The Cowboy Indian Alliance held a series of protests in Washington, D.C., in April. Everything is Illuminated/Pool Photos

As the Senate continues debate on S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, attorney Tara Houska urges Indian Country to call on their lawmakers to reject the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.
When the Keystone XL bill failed to pass by a single vote in December (and Greg Grey Cloud, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, honored the Senate with song), Republicans indicated Keystone XL would be their top priority in the new Congress. Despite a 57,000 gallon spill in Saskatchewan of tar sands crude in that same month, and another 50,000 gallon spill into the Yellowstone River last week, the congressional majority has stayed true to its word. The Keystone XL bill was scheduled for a committee hearing the first week of the 114th Congress. Indigenous voices of those directly impacted by Keystone XL were notably absent.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama appeared to shift from a noncommittal stance and began speaking about the paltry job creation Keystone XL would bring and the risk the U.S. would bear for a project benefitting Canada.

The White House officially announced it would veto any Keystone XL legislation on January 6, but Press Secretary Josh Earnest was careful to include mention of following the “process”; trans-boundary permitting is a power reserved exclusively to the executive branch. Environmental protectors shifted their focus back to the State Department, where a Keystone XL permit application remains pending, even after issuance of the Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Last Monday’s State of the Union included a brief mention of Keystone XL; President Obama reiterated that investing in U.S. infrastructure should be more than “a single pipeline.” To some, it signaled hope that the president will reject the Keystone XL permit. To cynics, there remains concern about conceding Keystone XL in exchange for a large-scale infrastructure bill. Senate democrats have proposed a flurry of amendments to Keystone XL; everything from requiring U.S. steel be used to construct it (rejected), to forcing their fellow senators to admit whether climate change is real (final vote: 98-1 believe it’s “not a hoax”). Last Thursday, Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat out of Maryland, introduced language that mandated consultation and the express consent of tribes impacted by the Keystone XL pipeline, including the lands of the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868. As of this writing, no action has been taken on the amendment.

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Tara Houska: Obama to Veto Keystone XL Pipeline Bill, But Will He Reject Permit? (Indian Country Today 1/27)

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