Environment | Law | National

Native Sun News: Tribes denied voice in Keystone hearings

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

Participants of No KXL Dakota Coalition gather at tipi encampment established as part of grassroots resistance to toxic tar-sands crude-oil pipeline route proposed for Lakota Territory. Photo courtesy No KXL Dakota Coalition

Ride to protest PUC ignoring Indian voices
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

PIERRE –– At the South Dakota State Capitol on July 6, tribal leaders and allies demanded more input on TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline permit application, announcing a Four Directions Resistance Ride, March and Rally to precede final evidentiary hearings set for July 27.

“We are concerned that in considering whether to accept certification of the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, the PUC has taken repeated actions to limit the voice of the Indian nations and many concerned South Dakotans,” resisters testified in a joint statement delivered at the Public Utilities Commission meeting in the capitol.

The Canadian proponent of the pipeline is seeking certification, or approval, of its expired state permit to build the tar-sands crude-oil conduit across 314 miles of Lakota Territory, through the South Dakota counties of Harding, Butte, Perkins, Meade, Pennington, Haakon, Jones, Lyman and Tripp.

It also is seeking a federal permit for the entire 1,980-mile route from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast in Texas.

On June 15, the PUC determined it would not take into consideration Native American aboriginal title and gathering rights, in deciding whether to grant the permit.

Commissioners declined to take into account concerns about the pipeline’s proposed route across the Mni Wiconi Rural Water Supply System, which provides drinking water to the Oglala, Rosebud and Lower Brule Sioux tribes.

The PUC also has issued an order precluding the testimony and evidence of dozens of South Dakota landowners and ranching families, Indian and non-Indian, for alleged violations of procedural rules.

TransCanada was found to have violated the very same rules, but has suffered no equivalent sanction, according to testimony.

“We believe this demonstrates a clear bias in favor of a Canadian corporation and against the concerns of South Dakota Tribes and their non-Indian neighbors,” signatories of the testimony said.

They included: No KXL Dakota Coalition; lndigenous Environmental Network; Dakota Rural Action; South Dakota Peace and Justice Center; BOLD Nebraska; Ihanktonwan Treaty Council; Kul Wicasa Treaty Council; Oyate Wahacanka Woecun; Rosebud Sioux Tribe; Yankton Sioux Tribe; William Kindle, Chairman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe; William Bear Shield, Chairman of Land and Natural Resources, Rosebud Sioux Tribe; Dallas Goldtooth, Elizabeth Lone Eagle, Bud Lone Eagle, Art Tanderp, Wrexie Bardaglio, Carolyn Smith, John Harter, Faith Spotted Eagle, Carol Lynch, Brian Hemmelman, Donna J. Hess, Kimberly James, Gerald Sanftner, Laura Barnaud, Bruce A. Crisman, Elizabeth Fox, Rebecca R. Leas, Meghann Elizabeth Jarchow, Carl Kline, Paul Seamans, Emelie Haigh, Kevin Crosby, Patricia Fox, Sylvia Lambert, Sarah Peterson, Lyndsey Monroe, Jesse Monroe, Brad Hauck, Elaine Keats Noyes, Robert Allpress, Neal Olson, Kurt Seamans, Joan Trygstad, and Sue Sibson.

A number of them had been barred from testifying in the upcoming evidentiary hearings.

The hearings were set to commence at 9:00 a.m. CDT, with marking of exhibits to begin at 8:00 a.m. on July 27. They were scheduled to continue at 8:00 a.m. July 28-31, and Aug. 3-4, in Room 414 of the State Capitol Building, 500 E. Capitol Ave., in Pierre.

Although only qualified interveners were welcome to speak on those dates, the PUC said it would accept written comments from the public at any time. It said the comments must include the commenter's full name and address and the docket number or the project name. The comments should include the commenter's email address and phone number, if available.

Submissions can be sent to puc@state.sd.us; or PUC, 500 E. Capitol Ave., Pierre, SD 57501 or delivered to the PUC at the office on the First Floor of the Capitol Building. The comments will be filed in the docket, according to the commission.

The docket is HP14-001 and the name of the project is In the Matter of the Petition of TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP for Order Accepting Certification of Permit Issued in Docket HP09-001 to Construct the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The statewide non-profit grassroots membership organization Dakota Rural Action announced it would arrange for buses from Sioux Falls and Rapid City to transport Resistance Ride and March participants to Pierre on the morning of July 26 and return them in the evening.

Activist Joye Braun, who was denied intervener status in the PUC hearings, said a group of resisters will meet in Ft. Pierre next to the Pizza Ranch at 11 a.m. MDT (12 p.m. CDT).

“Riders, both native and non-native, will be joining us, and we will ride and march together across the bridge into Pierre to show our collective resistance to tar sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline,” she said.

The march will be followed by a water ceremony, concert rally, and a community feed.

“Be it on horseback, bike, or on foot, concerned citizens from across the state and the region will unite and ride into Pierre crossing the sacred Missouri River to communicate: We demand better than KXL,” the No KXL Dakota Coalition announced.

The Indigenous Environmental Network has joined Dakota Rural Action in a campaign to raise funds to support the on-going legal and grassroots fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline, as well as the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would transport Bakken crude from North Dakota across several states.

“These two pipeline proposals threaten the Great Plains – and our planet, by deepening our reliance on dirty fossil fuels,” campaign organizers said in a written statement.

“Protecting the Great Plains is critical to protecting the earth, our people, our land, and our water. This campaign bridges our pipeline fights and brings power to the people on the front lines,” they said.

The public relations firm Keybridge Communications in Washington, D.C. is distributing an essay claiming that concerns over environmental and economic impacts of the pipeline are “baseless.”

The essay by Washington Star columnist Drew Johnson, says, “In fact, the pipeline would actually help the environment. That's because moving oil by pipeline produces 42 percent fewer emissions than transporting the oil by rail, the next best alternative.”

It adds that federal regulators stipulated 59 special safety rules pertaining to TransCanada’s proposal and claims that the company’s 7-year-old Keystone Pipeline through all South Dakota’s eastern border counties “has already safely transported more than 610 million barrels of oil.”

However, the resisters’ joint testimony to the PUC claims, “There have been at least 14 spills of dangerous tar-sands crude from TransCanada's existing Keystone Pipeline and the Cushing Extension.”

It continues: “In the face of this dismal record, TransCanada consistently downplays the possibility of a significant oil spill in South Dakota, putting our land and water in jeopardy.”

At an April 14 PUC hearing, TransCanada Corp. admitted that it had not prepared an Emergency Response Plan for the Keystone XL Pipeline. Condition 36 of the expired permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline requires such a filing.

“TransCanada has not bothered to comply and prepare an emergency response plan, instead spending millions of dollars on lobbying and television advertising,” resisters charged.

Essayist Drew Johnson, an adjunct fellow at the Great Plains Public Policy Institute, which calls itself South Dakota's free market think tank, argues that the new pipeline would create jobs and pump money into government coffers in the form of tax contributions.

“To build Keystone XL, TransCanada would pay millions of dollars in local property taxes. The company has already paid $18 million in property taxes for the first Keystone pipeline.

“For the sake of the environment, the economy, national security and the residents of the state, South Dakota leaders must re-up Keystone XL's permit as soon they get the opportunity,” he says. Dakota Rural Action Executive Board Member Paul Seamans, whose ranchland is on the Keystone XL Pipeline route, counters: The five-year average of taxes received on the 200 miles of Keystone 1 Pipeline in South Dakota is $2.8 million per year. The average property tax paid per mile is $14,128.23 per mile.

Even if West River ranchland were taxed at the same rate as East River farmland (which it would not be), then the taxes received on the 313 miles of Keystone XL pipeline would be $4.42 million. This would be less than a fourth of the $20 million that TransCanada has been promising,” Seamans says.

“Consider, by contrast, what we are putting at risk by building Keystone XL: prime agricultural land across the entire state of South Dakota,” says No KXL Dakota. “Our agriculture industry contributes over $25 billion to the state’s economy. Pipelines put that land, water, and resource directly at risk on a daily basis,” the coalition said in a message urging citizens to contact the PUC.

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

Copyright permission Native Sun News

Join the Conversation