|The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.
“It’s our water, our territory, not just Lower Brules’ ”|
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor
LOWER BRULE RESERVATION — More than 100 opponents of TransCanada Corp.’s pending Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline converged at the Lower Brule Convention Center on March 5 to warn tribal council officials against taking part in the construction effort.
“TransCanada needs the water and power to operate its pump stations for that humongous black snake tar-sands pipeline,” said non-profit Owe Aku (“Bring Back the Way”) founder Debra White Plume, who traveled to the central South Dakota Indian Reservation of Lower Brule for the gathering.
Subsequently, during a March 9 meeting of the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation (Oceti Sakowin), held at Sitting Bull College in Ft. Yates, North Dakota, on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, 79 people from different Sioux tribes signed a declaration against the proposed pipeline.
TransCanada Corp. awaits a Presidential Permit allowing the final leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline construction across the Canada-U.S. border in Montana, and through Native American ancestral and treaty lands in South Dakota and Nebraska, so it can connect with its recently completed southern segment. It could then slurry the toxic, diluted tar-sands crude, or dilbit, to refinery and export facilities on the Gulf of Mexico.
The March 9 document, entitled “United Oceti Sakowin Declare Stand Against KXL,” announces another meeting at the Lower Brule Convention Center on March 30, stating:
“The oceti is aware that the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe is in active negotiations with TransCanada to create transmission lines, which will power the pump stations and other developments necessary for the KXL Pipeline to function.”
TransCanada Corp.’s plans call for the Keystone XL Pipeline to use 41 electric powered pump stations to move dilbit through the line – eight in Canada and 33 in the United States.
Situated at approximately 50-mile intervals along the line, the pump stations would include electrical substations with transformers to convert up to 25 megawatts of power from high voltage electrical lines to use in the pumps.
The demand will place an “enormous burden” on suppliers of electrical power and transmission lines,” according to Owe Aku spokesman Kent Lebsock, who attended the Lower Brule gathering on March 5.
“That transmission of power will also use up and destroy more water,” he told the Native Sun News, alluding to the statistic that tar-sands extraction consumes and contaminates four gallons of water for every single gallon of crude oil it produces.
West Central Electric Cooperative, Inc., headquartered at Murdo, would be responsible for building the local substation facilities and pumps if the Presidential Permit is granted. The coop’s CEO and manager, Steve Reed, says he hopes the construction will begin this year.
West Central Electric is a cooperative serving 3,660 members in the counties of Haakon, Jackson, Jones, Lyman and Stanley. It also serves members in the towns of Belvidere, Draper, Hayes, Kadoka, Kennebec, Lower Brule, Midland, Milesville, Murdo, Oacoma, Okaton, Philip, Presho, Reliance and Vivian. The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe is a member.
Unconfirmed reports of offers for two windmills and free electricity for Lower Brule tribal members have raised pipeline opponents’ suspicions that the tribal government may support the crude-oil project.
“Lower Brule Tribal Council is a weak link. We must go support the grassroots people to stand up to their tribal council,” White Plume said. “It’s our territory and water, not just Lower Brule.”
The declaration states that the proposed pipeline would cut “a wide swath through aboriginal homelands protected by the Ft. Laramie treaties of 1851 and 1868.” It notes that “thousands of sacred sites and ceremonial areas will be disturbed and destroyed.
“The Oceti Sakowin is aware that many sovereigns and First Nations people have been enticed into taking funds for promises that are unclear,” it continues.
“Any of these monetary proposals, which are taken by individual bands of the Oceti Sakowin, are in direct violation of the treaty agreements,” it states.
According to Lower Brule pipeline opponent Wicahpi Ksapa Peji Wikan, “a lot of verbal confirmation” of tribal council action to facilitate the pipeline was reason enough for the gathering and declaration.
“All this money ain’t gonna save our children and their children,” he said. “They'll be sick and fighting for survival. I feel it’s time to choose and stand against this black snake coming!” he added.
Non-profit Dakota Rural Action Executive Board Director Paul Seamans congratulated Owe Aku on the mobilization.
“It does my heart good to see the tribes working together as well as with us non-native allies,” Seamans said. “Together I really feel that we will stop the KXL.”
Basin Electric Power Cooperative supplies the Lower Brule utility and other local providers that are expected to help Keystone XL obtain the power it would need for four of its five proposed pumping stations in Montana and all seven in South Dakota.
Coop members would be involved in financing the Keystone XL pumping and electrical stations, through the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp., which members own.
For example, Big Flat Electric Cooperative in Malta, Montana, signed a letter of agreement with TransCanada for the Calgary-based company to pay preconstruction expenses up-front for a station and substation.
Signing of another contract for construction is all that’s needed for the member-owned finance corporation to provide loans. Big Flat’s arrangement is to charge TransCanada operators monthly fees to recover the loan and interest money.
“Both construction and operating contracts provide for guarantees from TransCanada, the corporate parent of Keystone XL, to ensure Big Flat will recover all stranded costs due to non-completion or premature shutdown,” the Montana Consumer Council reports.
It warns: “The electrical consumption of the pump stations may be a significant increase in the volume of electricity needed.
“The magnitude of the pipeline load is significant, and if the full incremental costs are not recovered from the pipeline, customers could see their rates go up noticeably. Existing customers could be at risk if the project is never completed, or if the project is completed but shuts down prematurely, or if recovery is predicated on the expected volume of power use and the pipeline does not run at projected levels.”
Basin's initial responsibility could be as high as 145 MW, and its final commitment could be as high as 243-250 MW, according to the state-mandated council.
Basin could experience demand for a 4.1-percent increase in capacity due to the initial work for the proposed pump stations, and their full development “at some future date could have a similar effect,” the council says. Most of the supply would come from fossil-fuel powered generating plants.
It concludes: “Service to the Keystone pump stations represents a significant increase in load, as well as a significant investment compared with current plant in service, for each of the four Montana electric coops that will serve them. However, the coops, and their suppliers, are well aware of that fact and appear to have done a good job of eliminating the risk of cost increases due to service to the pipeline, construction of the electrical infrastructure, or from early termination of pipeline and pump station operation.”
In Nebraska, The Keystone XL Pipeline would use electric energy to power five dilbit pumping stations in the central part of the state.
Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) would provide the transmission facilities required by three of the stations.
Because the pumping stations require large amounts of electric energy to run their electric motors, NPPD would construct three new 115kV transmission lines. The pipeline would require about 25 megawatts per pumping station.
NPPD also would build new transmission substations near Petersberg and near Clarks. NPPD’s O’Neill transmission substation would have to be expanded.
The utility says it would construct transmission lines only after a public consultation regarding their routes.
“TransCanada will pay the majority of the cost of these 115kV transmission line projects, with total costs estimated at $49 million, including substation work,” NPPD says.
The energy would be transmitted to substations owned by Niobrara Valley EMC, Loup Valleys RPPD and Southern Power District.
However, Lancaster County Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled on Feb. 19, that Nebraska’s gubernatorial decision to approve the pipeline route is unconstitutional, and that so are the condemnations of private land made along the route to facilitate the project.
(Contact Talli Nauman, Health and Environment Editor for Native Sun News at firstname.lastname@example.org)