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Native Sun News: Tensions rise over Keystone XL proceedings

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

Representatives of the Sicangu Iyuksa Wicoti, Rosebud Sioux Tribe Spirit Camp, and Oyate Wahacanka Woecun (Shielding the People) appear before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Photo from Facebook

Tensions rise between Sioux Tribes and SD Public Utilities Commission
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

PIERRE –– After the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) denied motions by the Yankton Sioux and the Standing Rock Sioux tribes on TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline, tribal opponents of the project and their allies rallied to be heard at an April 15 hearing.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe succeeded in a motion to postpone the hearing until that date, in order for additional evidence to be submitted on the Canadian corporation’s request for recertification of its expired state permit to build the pipeline across 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory.

“We are disappointed that the South Dakota PUC didn't recognize our fellow interveners and that it was a small victory,” said Paula Antoine, director of the Sicangu Oyate Land Office for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “This project has the potential to have a monumental impact that could devastate locally, nationally and globally.”

TransCanada wants to finish its 2,639-mile pipeline from the tar-sands mines of Alberta Province to the refineries and export facilities on the Gulf of Mexico by pushing through Lakota territory in present-day Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Construction of the remaining 1,179-miles of the pipeline would require 9,000 skilled workers, according to the Canadian company. The U.S. State Department says the entire project also would create 35 permanent jobs.

The tribes and some 40 other interveners at the PUC have raised concerns over: the effects of the toxic dilbit (diluted bitumen) spills from the pipeline crossing the Ogallala Aquifer and other streams, rivers, and water bodies; whether the State Department conducted sufficient consultation with interested tribes under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act; whether TransCanada Corp. is entitled to exercise the right of eminent domain to take lands for the route; and whether development of the oil sands in Canada harms the environment and contributes to levels of C02 in the atmosphere.

A view of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Spiritual Camp in South Dakota, a camp to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline. Photo from Shielding the People / Facebook

U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration is charged with deciding whether the pipeline would serve “the national interest” if allowed to cross the U.S.-Canada border, has said the decision will be based on the whether the project would contribute to global warming.

Tensions arose over the PUC proceedings in December when the commission denied a Yankton Sioux Tribe motion to dismiss TransCanada Corp.’s permit renewal application, alleging that the company changed 30 conditions and should submit an all-new request. At the same time, the commission granted the corporation’s motion to limit the scope of discovery.

“Thirty changed conditions is prima facie evidence that the conditions are not the same,” said Yankton tribal member and Ihanktonwan Treaty Council Chair Faith Spotted Eagle. “Now TransCanada is dragging its feet to provide us with the information we are requesting and is seeking to limit our participation in the evidentiary hearing.”

Tensions escalated when the PUC’s March 10 deadline essentially ended discovery with many parties feeling that TransCanada had not completely disclosed all the information they had on the 30 changed conditions of the pipeline. Standing Rock Sioux and the Rosebud Sioux both filed motions to address this and amend the PUC scheduling order. Standing Rock’s motion failed and Rosebud’s succeeded.

Citing the potential impact of pipeline toxic dilbit spills on water supplies, fish and other wildlife, and medicinal plants, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said, “The Public Utilities Commission had better take a hard look at these important concerns.

“Pipeline safety has become a very important issue, with all of the recent spills," he noted.

With a May evidentiary hearing looming at the PUC, TransCanada Corp. is seeking to exclude more than half of the 40 interveners the commission accepted to comment on the case. Among those the company would exclude or limit are the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (COUP) and the Yankton Sioux tribe, as well as non-governmental organizations, ranchers whose lands would be used for the pipeline, and other individuals.

TransCanada wanted the parties to provide testimony by April 2. Intertribal COUP and the non-profit Dakota Rural Action (DRA) both filed objections to “pre-filing requirements,” alleging it does not comply with South Dakota’s civil procedure rules.

That issue was set to be addressed, among others, at the April 15 hearing.

Dakota Rural Action board member Paul Seaman’s, whose ranch would be crossed by the pipeline, urged citizens to “pay attention to these proceedings and join us in Pierre to make sure our voices are heard by these commissioners.

“Under South Dakota law, they are charged with safeguarding the health, welfare and environment of South Dakota citizens and balancing development requests that benefit the people of South Dakota,” Seamans said.

“We do not believe this pipeline will benefit the people of South Dakota sufficiently to jeopardize the land and water for our future generations,” he added.

(Contact Talli Nauman, Health and Environment Editor at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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