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Native Sun News: Sioux tribes intervene in Keystone review

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

The thick line shows that the only segment of the Keystone XL Pipeline yet to be constructed is the part that runs through the Great Sioux Nation. Image courtesy South Dakota Public Utilities Commission

Keystone XL Pipeline faces big fight by Great Sioux Nation
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor

PIERRE –– TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline is up for a big fight in the heart of the Great Sioux Nation.

In an Oct. 31 order, South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commission granted four Sioux tribes and all 39 other applicants the status they sought to intervene in TransCanada Corp.’s bid to renew the certification necessary for construction of the Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline across the state.

The Canadian company’s 2010 certification, or permission, to build 313 miles of 36-inch pipeline and related infrastructure in South Dakota had expired, and the business filed for renewal on Sept.15. It wants to connect the tar-sands mines in Alberta, Canada, with the rest of the diluted bitumen (dilbit) line it has built from Steele City, Nebraska, to the refineries and export depots on the Gulf of Mexico.

In response, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (CRST) submitted a strongly worded Oct. 14 executive resolution to the PUC, requesting denial of recertification.

“The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe continues to be firmly opposed to the construction of any and all segments of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline,” said the document signed by Tribal Chairman Kevin Keckler.

“A spill would affect any number of tributaries that flow into the water source for the people of the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation and would prove devastating,” it said.

The pipeline would cross the Cannonball River, Grand River, Moreau River and Cheyenne River, it noted. “These rivers individually and collectively enter the Missouri River in Lake Oahe … immediately upstream from our intake” in the Mni Waste Rural Water System, it said.

It cited the 2010 tar-sands oil pipeline spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, noting the accident continues to present clean-up problems.

It also noted that TransCanada claimed in its report to the PUC that a spill would occur once in 7,400 years on any given mile of pipe, contrasting that with U.S. State Department findings in the project’s environmental impact statement that in the decade between 2002 and 2012, 1,692 pipeline spills occurred.

More than a dozen spills occurred on TransCanada’s Keystone I Pipeline through the Great Plains in its first year of operations.

CRST called on state agencies to respect South Dakota’s commitment to government-to-government relationships when addressing tribal concerns, and it called on U.S. President Barack Obama to reduce U.S. “reliance on the world’s dirtiest and most environmentally destructive form of oil – the tar sands – that threatens all populations….”

The tribe noted that the state of South Dakota “is unable to determine the impact that the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would have on cultural and historic sites and the environmental impact to tribes.

“The Sovereign Nation of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe will not now or ever allow the State of South Dakota or any government deny us our right to preserve and protect what we hold sacred through repeated violations of federal laws,” it said.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, applying for status as an intervening party in the permit decision, also cited interests based on treaty, water, and cultural preservation law.

“The Keystone XL project would cross land that has been adjudged by the U.S. Indian Claims Commission and the U.S. Court of Claims to be the aboriginal and treaty-titled land of the petitioner Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,” it said.

The tribe noted that the project would cross the Little Missouri River, Missouri River and the South Fork of the Grand River, upstream from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

“The petitioner possesses reserved water rights to the Missouri River and Grand River, under federal law,” it said. “The water crossings and pipeline construction would result in water depletions and water quality degradation of the Missouri River and Grand River, impacting petitioner’s water rights.”

What’s more, the tribe said, it “possesses proprietary rights to certain human remains, funerary objects and cultural objects of Native American origin that may be unintentionally unearthed during construction of the Keystone XL project.”

The tribal Water Resources Department and Historic Preservation Office are tasked with “protection of water quality and historic properties both within and outside of the exterior boundaries of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation,” the petition stated.

“The project would affect fish and wildlife in the Grand River Basin and the plains ecosystem – and impact subsistence hunting and fishing by tribal members,” it said.

“Secondary environmental and health effects of the construction of the Keystone XL project would directly impact Standing Rock, such as increased traffic on U.S. Highway 12 on the reservation, the possible development of worker camps and infrastructure near Indian land in Corson County, and place further stress on limited rural health care resources in our region,” it continued.

The cumulative environmental impacts of the Keystone XL project and other recently-proposed projects have not been evaluated and may have a significant effect on the reservation, it added.

The Yankton Sioux Tribe sought inclusion as an intervening party on the grounds of being “a sovereign government whose ancestral and treaty lands include the proposed pipeline corridor.”

Tribal Chairman Robert Flying Hawk requested party status “to monitor TransCanada's application and ensure conditions can be met in light of changes since 2009.

“Today, KXL poses an even greater risk to Indian country,” he said in the application. “The Yankton Sioux Tribe must inform the PUC of risks to tribal lands, health and other interests overlooked in 2009. The YST can also provide a tribal perspective on cultural, environmental, construction, and liability issues.

“After the initial flawed tribal consultation, tribal input is needed now to identify cultural and religious properties in the corridor that could be compromised. The YST must also protect its reserved water rights, confirm the completion of all applicable surveys, and ensure the tribal safety with the man camps near the reservation,” he said.

“Too many rights are at stake, and too many laws have been violated for tribes to once again be ignored,” he argued.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe noted its interest is based on the fact that that the proposed line runs through Tripp County, which has allotment lands deemed by U.S. Supreme Court to be under the tribe’s jurisdiction.

“Every utility which enters and operates within the reservation enters into consensual relations, commercial dealings and contracts with residents of the reservation, Indian and non-Indian, and with the tribe, to provide services, operate facilities, construct and erect pipelines, transmission lines, poles, towers and other improvements upon and across reservation lands owned by Indians, non-Indians and the tribe,” the Rosebud Sioux Tribe - Tribal Utility Commission sustained in its petition to intervene alongside the Land Office and the Tribal Historic Preservation Office.

Throughout 2014, the tribes have supported tipi encampments on lands in the path of the proposed pipeline to show the opposition they have voiced in resolutions over the life of the proposal.

TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline failed in its petition to exclude the Rosebud Tribal Utility Commission from intervening party status, as well as in all the petitions it filed to exclude other parties.

The PUC overruled TransCanada’s arguments the commission does not have jurisdiction over the issues raised in the applications for intervening party status submitted by the lntertribal Council on Utility Policy, Tom and Dallas Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network, the climate change non-profit 350.org, and Nebraska residents, including Jane Kleeb and Benjamin Gotschall of the ad-hoc anti-XL group Bold Nebraska.

The three-member commission voted unanimously to approve all intervener applicants, including: Dakota Rural Action, South Dakota Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, John H. Harter, Elizabeth Lone Eagle, Paul F. Seamans, Viola Waln, Cindy Myers, Diana L. Steskal, Cheryl Frisch, Terry Frisch, Byron T. Steskal, Arthur R. Tanderup, Lewis GrassRope, Carolyn P. Smith, Robert G. Allpress, Jeff Jensen, Amy Schaffer, Louis T. Genung, Nancy Hilding, Gary F. Dorr, Bruce Boettcher, Wrexie Lainson Bardaglio, Jerry D. Jones, Cody Jones, Debbie J. Trapp, Gena M. Parkhurst, Joye Braun, Chastity Jewett, RoxAnn Boettcher, Bonny Kilmurry, and Ronald Fees.

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

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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