Environment | National

Native Sun News: Tribes united against Keystone XL Pipeline

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

Green line shows the route of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline through treaty territory in South Dakota. Image from TransCanada Corp

Oceti Sakowin united against XL Pipeline
Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

ROSEBUD — The tribally funded Oyate Wahacanka Woecun, (Shielding the People) movement announced Sept. 11 what it calls “a monumental action” to oppose construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline at the South Dakota Public Utility Commission (PUC) level.

“In light of TransCanada’s statements that it plans to apply shortly to the S.D. PUC to certify its permit in the state, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe will kick off a series of informational meetings to educate the 46,000 members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the 24,000 members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe about the status of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, PUC’s role and the permitting process in South Dakota, and the dangers the project poses,” Oyate Wahacanka Woecun Media Coordinator Gary Dorr said in a statement submitted to the Native Sun News.

He sustained that TransCanada cannot certify that the conditions contained in its original 2010 permit received from the state are all still valid, as it must if it wants to renew the permit.

TransCanada Corp. proposes to add 1,179 miles to its tar-sands crude-oil pipeline beginning in Hardisty, Alberta, and extending across 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska to Steele City.

“This pipeline is a critical infrastructure project for the energy security of the United States and for strengthening the American economy,” the Canadian company says.

“Along with transporting crude oil from Canada, the Keystone XL Pipeline will also support the significant growth of crude-oil production in the United States by allowing American oil producers more access to the large refining markets found in the American Midwest and along the U.S. Gulf Coast,” it says in promoting the project.

U.S. oil production has gone up 60 percent since TransCanada Corp. received a permit in South Dakota, increasing from 5.3 million barrels per day in 2010 to 8.5 million barrels per day now. The forecast is for as much as 9.1 million barrels per day in 2015.

Oyate Wahacanka Woecun argues that “TransCanada will continue to manipulate facts in an attempt to certify that it still meets all the conditions of its 2010 permit,” but the grassroots endeavor will arm the public with the knowledge they need to exercise their rights and participate in the permitting process.

“The unified voices of the Oceti Sakowin and South Dakota will make certain the PUC hears the truth,” Dorr said.

In addition to the 70,000 tribal members of the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Tribe, an additional 100,000 members of the Oceti Sakowin oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline, as well as thousands of non-native landowners in the region, he noted.

The Rosebud and Oglala Sioux are “closely aligned and cooperating with” the citizens’ action group, Dakota Rural Action, to educate the public and defend the Ogallala Aquifer, he added.

The aquifer, which is in the path of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, provides drinking water for 2.2 million people.

Paul Seamans, chairman of the statewide non-profit Dakota Rural Action, noted that TransCanada Corp. does not have a U.S. permit to build the pipeline across the international border and is in the midst of a Nebraska Supreme Court case about the pipeline’s proposed route over the aquifer.

He said the most recent hearing in the case was held Sept. 5, and the process may last up to seven months.

Providing a South Dakota PUC permit before TransCanada has a legal ruling from the state of Nebraska or conclusion of the federal permitting process is putting the proverbial “horse before not just one but two carts,” Dorr said.

“As it stands right now, TransCanada has no legal route through Nebraska. If the route is not approved through Nebraska or even more importantly by the President to cross the border with Canada, this would leave a pipe in the ground in South Dakota with no legal recourse for TransCanada to remove it,” he said.

Oyate Wahacanka Woecun also warned of “the risk from a carcinogenic mix of diluted bitumen heated to 150 degrees Fahrenheit and transported through the pipeline at 1,600 psi.”

Fourteen dilbit spills occurred in the first 18 months of operation of TransCanada’s Keystone I Pipeline, also located in 1868 treaty territory.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe demands government-to-government consultation with federal officials over pipeline route because it crosses the Ogallala Aquifer in Tripp County adjacent to the Rosebud Indian Reservation and the tribe has a treaty right to protection of its resources, according to the statement.

“The Rosebud Sioux Tribe makes the demand to deny the Keystone XL Pipeline on behalf of all living beings that take their water from the Ogallala Aquifer,” it says.

The proposed pipeline route also crosses multiple rivers including the Cheyenne and other tributaries to the Missouri, which supplies drinking water for South Dakotans.

“The Tribe takes water as they have historically done for generations from the Missouri River,” the statement says. “This proposed Keystone XL pipeline will place that drinking water and multiple other drinking source waters and the Ogallala Aquifer at an extremely dangerous and possibly permanent risk.”

TransCanada Corp. announced in a Sept. 5 statement that it would use “innovative techniques ... to protect South Dakotan rivers and watersheds.”

One is called Horizontal Directional Drilling or (HDD) for short. The technique entails burying a pipeline a minimum of 25 feet below riverbeds, brooks and streams.

“This technique protects waterways by preventing damage to pipelines that is caused by flooding, scouring or debris,” the company said.

HDD would be used to bury the pipeline underneath the Cheyenne, Little Missouri, White, Bridger and Bad Rivers, TransCanada Corp. says.

The Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline generated an EPA call for emergency plans specific to dilbit, lengthy monitoring after spills, and providing local emergency agencies with necessary equipment and training.

“Before the South Dakota PUC approves any permit, assurance must be gained from TransCanada that every single precaution suggested by the EPA will be taken so that South Dakota will be better equipped for a response than the Mayflower, Arkansas oil spill in 2013,” Oyate Wahacanka Woecun stated.

That tar-sand crude-oil (dilbit) spill occurred in an urban neighborhood and Exxon bought the houses that became unlivable.

Oyate Wahacanka Woecun went on to warn against the pipeline’s potential impact on sacred sites. “The Rosebud Sioux Tribe retains inherent sovereignty over its land, resources, and reserved rights. The land contains significant known and unknown cultural, spiritual, and historical sites,” it states, adding, “The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has a right to protect these sights.”

According to TransCanada, its personnel consulted with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe about the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline route.

However, Dorr said, the upcoming TransCanada permit certification should be denied on the basis that any claims that TransCanada makes about consulting with the Rosebud Sioux Tribe are not in compliance with Federal Law or state law.

“It has been documented that TransCanada conducted a faulty and improper, sub-standard, cultural survey from a moving automobile,” he added.

His group also argues that meaningful consultation must come from the federal government, according to U.S. law.

“The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has not been consulted by the U.S. State Department on the issue of protecting historical and culturally significant sites, which are threatened by the proposed Keystone XL route,” Dorr said.

He questioned the financial benefits of the proposal.

TransCanada’s Keystone Operations President Corey Goulet recently promised his undertaking would provide $20 million in new taxes to local South Dakota communities, as part of an overall $7 billion the corporation projected on spending in the United Sates.

However, South Dakota Gov. Daugaard testified to then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton that the tax revenue would be 10.3 million dollars in 2010, and the tax revenue projections for the Keystone I were much higher than actual results.

A study by Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute found TransCanada’s outlays in the United States are less than half of 2010 projections.

“The South Dakota PUC should be asking TransCanada, ‘Where does the additional tax revenue come from if the budget is less than half of what it originally started at?’,” Dorr said. “This will have a significant impact on the public perception of the validity of the original promises made by TransCanada if the numbers cannot be realistically shown to exist.”

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

Copyright permission Native Sun News

Join the Conversation