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Native Sun News: 'Moccasins on the Ground' against Keystone

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

Debra White Plume
Debra White Plume. Photo from Facebook

EPA letter raises concerns about XL Pipeline
Lakota organize direct action protest training
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

DUPREE –– In the wake of a U.S. EPA letter raising concerns over the environmental risks of the proposed Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline, resisters announced a civil-disobedience and direct-action training here at the Lakota Community Center in the Cheyenne River Indian homelands Feb. 20-22.

The announcement came as TransCanada Corp. was waiting for U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision on whether to veto a recent U.S. Congressional bill for approval of the company’s application to build its second tar-sands crude-oil (diluted bitumen, or dilbit) pipeline across the treaty territory of the Oceti Sakowin.

Obama had promised a veto, “But we cannot sit and wait for his decision; we must act now and be ready to protect our sacred water, our lands, our families,” said trainer Debra White Plume, founder of the Manderson-based non-profit Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way).

The slated training, called Moccasins on the Ground, was the latest in a series developed by Owe Aku's Sacred Water Protection Project. The trainings have imparted skills, tactics, and techniques of nonviolent direct action in three-day sessions around 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory.

The information covered includes blockading heavy equipment, strategic media, street medic training, legal rights with respect to civil disobedience, building solidarity and alliances, international human rights protections, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Lakota sacred teachings on water.

Moccasins on the Ground
More information about Moccasins on the Ground. Image from Facebook

“As the process of public comment, hearings, and other aspects of an international application continue, each door is closing to protecting sacred water and our human right to water,” White Plume said. “Soon the only door left open will be the door to direct action,” she warned.

“Of course, we are hopeful that [Obama] will truly be revolutionary in the green sense, and say no to the permit, and lead the world in moving away from destruction and toward a sustainable energy future,” she said.

If he doesn’t, “An organized, prepared community is our best protection if President Obama chooses to issue the KXL permit,” she said.

The Administration is bound to decide the permit issue on the grounds of “national interest.” Obama has stated that global warming is his main concern in that regard.

The EPA told the U.S. State Department in a communique of Feb. 2, that the long-term prospects for lower oil prices, which have materialized since the department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), mean that permit denial is more likely to curb greenhouse gas proliferation than it was before.

In a letter from Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles, the EPA recommended that the “low price scenario included in the Final SEIS should be given additional weight during decision making, due to the potential implications of lower oil prices on project impacts, especially greenhouse gas emissions.”

The agency took into consideration the pipeline’s potential to facilitate more dependence on bitumen, as a source of fossil fuel, noting the tar-sands are more harmful to the atmosphere than other sources of fuel.

Giles highlighted EPA’s big concerns in the Final SEIS, noting: “The Final SEIS states that lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from development and use of oil-sands crude is about 17 percent greater than emissions from average crude oil refined in the United States.

TransCanada Corp. responded to EPA with a written declaration that “there is no such thing as an average crude oil. There are more than 100 blends (or grades) of crude oils transported and refined in North America,” it said.

Giles said the Final SEIS also finds that “the proposed project at full capacity would result in an additional 1.3 to 27.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year” compared to the other crude oils.

That increment would be equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 5.7 million passenger vehicles or 7.8 coal-fired power plants. Over the 50-year lifetime of the pipeline, this could translate into releasing as much as 1.37 billion more tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” according to studies cited by Giles.

TransCanada Corp. rejected the agency’s claim that the market forces affecting greenhouse gas rates should be revisited.

“When we filed our original application in 2008, the price of oil was less than $40 per barrel and no one suggested that Keystone XL was not economic then,” the company said.

Giles lauded the Final SEIS’ acknowledgement “that the proposed pipeline does present a risk of spills, which remains a concern for citizens and businesses relying on groundwater resources crossed by the route.”

The route of the Keystone XL Pipeline. he blue dotted line shows the segment of TransCanada Corp.’s pipeline that crosses Sioux Nation treaty territory, the only part left to be approved for the company to send its tar-sands crude to refineries and export facilities on the Gulf of Mexico. Image from TransCanada

TransCanada Corp. responded: “We have a deep care for the environment and all of the unique habitats and resources along all of our energy infrastructure corridors, and we work tirelessly to minimize the impact of our operations on all of them.”

EPA criticized the Final SEIS for failing to thoroughly consider alternative routes for the pipeline and “eliminating alternatives from a detailed analysis based on an abbreviated estimate of environmental impacts,” which, it said, “is not the preferred approach” under the National Environmental Protection Act’s requirements.

Pipeline fighters in Nebraska welcomed the EPA warnings. "It is reassuring the EPA stands with farmers and ranchers who know the Sandhills are still crossed by this risky pipeline and that alternative routes were not given enough serious consideration," said non-profit Bold Nebraska Director Jane Kleeb.

"America is diversifying our energy sources with renewables and Keystone XL continues to be a step backwards and simply does not make sense given low oil prices and the high carbon content of tar-sands," she said.

Nebraska landowners fighting TransCanada Corp.'s eminent domain claims on their land filed court injunctions on Feb. 4, to halt land seizures. They expected to obtain a Nebraska state Supreme Court ruling on their challenge to the Canadian company’s authority to exercise eminent domain.

“There is a substantial likelihood" landowners "will prevail," their lawyers Dave Domina and Brian Jorde said in court papers.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Councilor Robin LeBeaux welcomed the direct action training set for Dupree.

“It is my job to educate our people on their rights, and how to protect their rights,” she said. “This KXL pipeline may be the biggest issue of our lifetimes,” she said.

Trainers and presenters in the Moccasins on the Ground series include: Oglala Lakota White Plume; Tantoo Cardinal of Ft. McMurray, Canada; Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth; Kandi Mosset of the Indigenous Environmental Network; Nina Waste of Idle No More, Manitoba, Canada; Bruce Ellison of the National Lawyers Guild; Alex White Plume the NaCha (traditional leader) of the Oyunkpay Tiyospaye under the traditional form of governance of the Lakota Oyate ; Faith Spotted Eagle of Treaty to Protect the Sacred; Vic Camp and Jo Red Sky of the Warriors Alliance.

Trainers also include activists from the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, Texas Blockade, People’s Media Project of Chicago; Protect the Sacred of Ihanktowan Dakota Nation, Christian Peace Maker Team, Lakota Media Project, Deep Green Resistance and many other organizations and individuals.

“Delegations come from the four directions to participate in this training, all people who want to learn are welcome,” said Vic Camp, organizer for Owe Aku.

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

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