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Native Sun News: TransCanada still pushing for Keystone XL

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

WASHINGTON, D.C. –– TransCanada Corp. made its latest move to overturn the U.S. government’s decision rejecting the proposed binational Keystone XL Pipeline.

The Alberta-based company applied on May 4 to build the northern segment of its proposed tar-sands crude-oil route from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The new segment proposal includes erecting a border crossing at the Saskatchewan-Montana international line and pumping petroleum products diluted in toxic brine through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

“We will consider this new application on its merits,” the State Department said in a written response, adding, “this involves consideration of many factors, including energy security, health, environmental, cultural, economic, and foreign policy concerns.”

The Obama Administration has twice denied the company’s Presidential Permit application to build the entire proposed 1,700-mile Keystone XL Pipeline across six Great Plains states from Canada’s tar-sands oilfields to Texas refineries and export markets. The Administration determined that the proposal is not in the national interest until afforded further consideration.

However, TransCanada President and CEO Russ Girling disagreed. "The multi-billion dollar Keystone XL Pipeline project will reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign oil and support job growth by putting thousands of Americans to work," he said in submitting the most recent application.

North Dakota and Montana population sectors invested in the domestic oil and gas boom made possible by hydraulic fracturing of the Bakken formation there will be able to utilize the Bakken Market Uplink that TransCanada would provide with the northern segment of the route.

"Keystone XL will transport U.S. crude oil along with Canadian oil to U.S. refineries,” Girling noted.

However, the non-profit, progressive publishing house Common Dreams criticized,

“Thwarted by public opposition, the pipeline company has re-strategized by breaking up the pipeline into smaller segments and now hopes to achieve completion of the project by gaining approval for each leg separately.

“The relentless push by TransCanada – including a new route proposed for a section of the pipeline in Nebraska – has not slowed criticism of the overall project,” it commented.

Representatives of First Nations are demonstrating in support of the Canada‐wide “2012 Freedom Train” trip aimed at protecting their rights and their “freedom from the threat of tar-sands oil spills,” they said in a written statement.

The journey by rail began on the Pacific Coast on April 30, is being met by sympathizers at whistle-stop demonstrations, and is scheduled to culminate with First Nations delivery of their message to the Enbridge company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Toronto on May 9.

The action was organized by the Yinka Dene Alliance, a group of British Columbia First Nations that has used native laws to ban proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines and tankers in their territories.

“Our journey on this Freedom Train is to build on the support from the people of Canada for the protection of our traditional lands. We will stand firm against all industries like Enbridge that are planning to destroy the environment and the future of all peoples,” said Chief Martin Louie of Whut’en First Nation, a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance. “We need a healthy environment to ensure a healthy future for our children.”

Transcanada’s northern segment proposal would allow Keystone XL to connect with the company’s Keystone I Pipeline in Steele City, Nebraska. Keystone I, which traverses North Dakota and South Dakota spilled 14 times since it started operating in June 2010. Just one spill released 21,000 gallons of tar-sands crude and toxic brine.

Given the record, the Nebraska legislature passed LB 1161 on April 11, to reroute the pipeline in order to skirt the sensitive Sandhills ecosystem where the Ogallala Aquifer is close to the surface . The modified proposal adds 100 miles to the route but still calls for pipeline to be laid across the multi-state aquifer, in defiance of grassroots Bold Nebraska’s demands.

“The new Keystone route fails to avoid significant risks to an important aquifer and the rivers and streams that provide fresh water for millions of people and habitat for endangered species like the whooping crane, piping plover, and pallid sturgeon,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Similarly, said grassroots Dakota Rural Action board member John Harter, “A spill by The Keystone XL pipeline into our highly permeable soil that sits just above the Ogallala Aquifer or into one of our rivers that feeds millions of people their drinking water will be devastating to South Dakota’s ag and tourism economy.”

Harter’s land would be crossed by the proposed pipeline route in South Dakota’s Tripp County on the Nebraska border, “This is a great risk just to get this tar sands oil to the Gulf Coast so it can be exported to the world market for top dollar,” he said.

The public should be able to review and comment on the emergency response plans prior to construction “because they have intimate knowledge of the land and will likely be the first people to respond if something goes wrong,” Dakota Rural Action said in a written statement.

Likewise, the Center for Biological Diversity cited an “appearance of an opaque and furtive process overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers” due to agency stonewalling of landowners and citizens along the proposed pipeline’s path from Oklahoma and Texas on their requests for information regarding the application, timeline, and process for TransCanada’s southern segment permits.

The southern leg of Keystone XL, from Cushing, Oklahoma through Texas, would reduce a glut of tar-sands oil in the Midwest by piping it to refineries and international shipping ports on the Gulf Coast. This would boost industry profit expectations but it would also raise the price of gasoline in the Midwest and burden 10 million Texans, who rely the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer drinking water, with spills.

The Credo Action network charged, “TransCanada has secretly submitted its permit application for the southern portion of the Keystone XL Pipeline to the Army Corps of Engineers.” The corps is expected to approve the pipeline in 45 days.

(Contact Talli Nauman at

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