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Senate continues debate on bill to approve Keystone XL Pipeline

Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Cyril Scott, in black shirt, and other tribal activists at the spirit camp in South Dakota. Photo from Shielding the People / Facebook

The Senate continues to debate S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, as President Barack Obama urged Congress to focus on broader concerns.

Action on the measure to approve the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, is moving slowly in the Senate. That stands in contrast to the quick approval of H.R.3, its version of the bill, earlier this month.

Dozens of amendments to S.1 have been offered on the Senate floor and it appears debate could last a couple more weeks. Obama addressed the situation last night in his State of the Union.

"Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure -- modern ports, and stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet. Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this," Obama said in his remarks. "So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come."

While Indian Country remains opposed to the pipeline due to concerns about treaty lands, water sources and the environment, one proposed amendment to the bill addresses an issue of importance to tribes in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) are trying to block the expansion of the Powder River Training Complex by the Air Force.

"The Air Force acknowledged in a study released Nov. 28th that the low altitude flights and loud sonic booms could startle livestock and residents, including those living on over four reservations in the region," the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association said in a statement on Facebook.

The Coalition of Large Tribes and the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council have joined the Great Plains Tribes in opposing the expansion. Despite their concerns, the Air Force approved the Powder River plan a day after Tester and Daines filed their amendment.

"This decision is no doubt disappointing, but there are still opportunities to make sure that Montanans' concerns are heard," Tester said in a statement.

As debate continues, TransCanada, the Canadian company behind Keystone, started eminent domain proceedings against nearly 90 landowners in Nebraska who haven't agreed to allow the pipeline to pass through their properties. The move came after the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a law that determined the route of the pipeline in the state.

“I don’t even feel like I live in the United States any more,” farmer Terry Van Housen told The Lincoln Journal Star. "A foreign company coming over and shoving a pipe through my land without my OK? I feel terrible about it."

Get the Story:
Rare Moment of Consensus for Senate on Keystone Pipeline (The New York Times 1/21)
TransCanada begins condemnation proceedings (The Lincoln Journal Star 1/21)

Nebraska Supreme Court Decision:
Thompson v. Heineman (January 9, 2015)

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