In contrast to a Meade County permit meeting in South Dakota, one at Holt County in Nebraska was packed. Photo courtesy Shannon Graves

Native Sun News Today: Meade County oks man-camp

STURGIS –The Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Ft. Belknap Indian Community held off the Keystone XL Pipeline in federal court on February 25, as agents for the private Canadian tar-sands crude oil proposition garnered permission from Meade County Commissioners, meeting here, to start man-camp construction in South Dakota this March.

However, the representatives of project proponent TC Energy Corp. (formerly TransCanada Corp.) didn’t fare as well before Holt County Commissioners in Nebraska, who denied a construction permit there three days later.

TC Energy Corp. has been trying for 10 years to secure permits to build the pipeline more than 1,000 miles -- from the oil shale fields of Alberta Province, across Montana and South Dakota, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would link to existing infrastructure.

The product in the pipeline, which would be diluted bitumen, or dilbit, must reach Texas refineries in order to be processed for shipment abroad via Gulf of Mexico ports.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) and the Fort Belknap Indian Community (Assiniboine and Gros Ventre tribes), in coordination with their counsel, the Native American Rights Fund, submitted two new filings to Montana U.S. District Court on Feb. 25 in their 2018 lawsuit challenging a federal permit for the pipeline.

In these filings, the tribes highlight a TC Energy Corp. admission that the Keystone XL Pipeline would cross Rosebud mineral estates held in trust by the United States.

The prosecution submitted that the mineral estates qualify as Indian lands and the tribe has jurisdiction over them. “Trespassing into Rosebud’s mineral estates, held in trust, without Rosebud’s consent is a violation of the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie treaties,” it claimed.

The activities described in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement, namely rock ripping, blasting, trenching, topsoil removal, and backfilling, would adversely affect Rosebud’s mineral estate, it claimed, adding, “Federal agencies have a duty to prevent mineral trespass and protect Indian lands and tribal mineral estates.”

Also in the filings, the tribes sustained that, contrary to defendants’ arguments, neither the President’s foreign affairs power nor his role as Commander in Chief provide him authority to permit the pipeline, as he has announced doing.

The authority to permit the pipeline falls within Congress’ exclusive and plenary power to regulate foreign commerce, they argued. “As much as they would like to, TransCanada cannot ignore the laws that protect Native American people and lands,” said Native American Rights Fund Staff Attorney Natalie Landreth.

Meanwhile, on the same day as the court filings, the Meade County Commission voted to give TC Energy Corp. an extension on its expired construction permits for Pump Station 17 and for a 1,200-employee man-camp near Opal, population 31.

TC Energy Corp. Attorney Bill Taylor told commissioners the company paid $194,000 for the permits, which were granted on Oct. 22, 2018.

He said that company contractors conducted only preliminary work -- mowing vegetation to discourage raptors from using its right-of-way -- because the Montana U.S. District Court imposed a building ban while considering the merits of the case challenging the federal permit.


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