U.S. judge halts construction of Keystone XL oil pipeline

A federal judge in Montana halted construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline on Thursday on the grounds that the U.S. government did not complete a full analysis of the environmental impact of the TransCanada Corp project.

The ruling deals a major setback for TransCanada Corp and could possibly delay the construction of the $8 billion, 1,180 mile (1,900 km) pipeline.

The ruling is a victory for environmentalists, tribal groups and ranchers who have spent more than a decade fighting against construction of the pipeline that will carry heavy crude to Steele City, Nebraska, from Canada’s oilsands in Alberta.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris’ ruling late on Thursday came in a lawsuit that several environmental groups filed against the U.S. government in 2017, soon after President Donald Trump announced a presidential permit for the project.

Morris wrote in his ruling that a U.S. State Department environmental analysis “fell short of a ‘hard look’” at the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions and the impact on Native American land resources.

He also ruled the analysis failed to fully review the effects of the current oil price on the pipeline’s viability and did not fully model potential oil spills and offer mitigations measures.

In Thursday’s ruling, Morris ordered the government to issue a more thorough environmental analysis before the project can move forward.

“The Trump administration tried to force this dirty pipeline project on the American people, but they can’t ignore the threats it would pose to our clean water, our climate, and our communities,” said the Sierra Club, one of the environmental groups involved in the lawsuit.

Trump supported building the pipeline, which was rejected by former President Barack Obama in 2015 on environmental concerns relating to emissions that cause climate change.

Trump, a Republican, said the project would lower consumer fuel prices, create jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.



Montana judge orders review of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline route

Pipeline construction image. TransCanada

In setback for TransCanada, judge orders environmental review of Keystone XL pipeline revised route

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Montana has ordered the U.S. State Department to do a full environmental review of a revised route for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, possibly delaying its construction and dealing another setback to TransCanada Corp.

For more than a decade, environmentalists, tribal groups, and ranchers have fought the $8-billion, 1,180-mile (1,900-km) pipeline that will carry heavy crude to Steele City, Nebraska, from Canada’s oilsands in Alberta.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled late on Wednesday for the Indigenous Environmental Network and other plaintiffs, ordering the review of a revised pipeline route through Nebraska to supplement one the State Department did on the original path in 2014.

The State Department was obligated to “analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision” to issue a permit for the pipeline last year, Morris said in his ruling.

Supporting the project are Canadian oil producers, who face price discounts over transport bottlenecks, and U.S. refineries and pipeline builders.

TransCanada is reviewing the decision, company spokesman Matthew John said. It hopes to start preliminary work in Montana in the coming months and to begin construction in the second quarter of 2019.

The company said this month it expects to make a final investment decision late this year or in early 2019.

The ruling is negative for TransCanada, since it adds uncertainty to timing, said RBC analyst Robert Kwan, and it was important that the pipeline be constructed during the current U.S. presidential cycle.

President Donald Trump is keen to see the building of the pipeline, which was axed by former President Barack Obama in 2015 on environmental concerns relating to emissions that cause climate change.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. The State Department is reviewing the court’s order, a spokesman said.

The ruling was “a rejection of the Trump administration’s attempt to … force Keystone XL on the American people,” said Jackie Prange, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

Trump pushed to approve the pipeline soon after he took office, and a State Department official signed a so-called presidential permit in 2017 allowing it to move forward.

However, Morris declined the plaintiff’s request to void that permit, which was based on the 2014 review.

Last year, Nebraska regulators approved an alternative route for the pipeline, which will cost TransCanada millions of dollars more than the original path.

In a draft environmental assessment last month, the State Department said Keystone XL would not harm water supplies or wildlife. That review is less wide-ranging than the full environmental impact statement Morris ordered.

By Reuters 



Nebraska Commission Approves TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline

Nebraska approves alternative route for Keystone XL 

TransCanada Corp. now has the approvals it needs to build its Keystone XL pipeline.

Nebraska’s Public Service Commission has approved the passage of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline through the state in a 3 to 2 vote.

TransCanada won approval Monday, marking the last major hurdle for one of the most controversial pipelines projects of all time.

But the five-member commission rejected TransCanada’s preferred route and voted to approve an alternative route that would move the pipeline further east.

Source: Nebraska Public Service Commission

In a statement, TransCanada said it would take time to study the decision’s impact on costs and timing of the project.

Nebraska was the last state to formally approve the pipeline, which also has federal clearance after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order approving it earlier this year.

It is unclear whether the federal approval for the KXL project covers the route approved by the state commission.

The approval comes just days after a massive 210,000-gallon oil spill by the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota.


The commission’s decision focused narrowly on whether the Keystone XL pipeline is in the public interest, not environmental issues, which it is not allowed to consider.

The commission’s approval of the Keystone XL is likely to be challenged in court by opponents who say the project is an environmental risk.

Opposition to the line in Nebraska has been driven mainly by a group of around 90 landowners whose farms lie along the proposed route. They have said they are worried spills could pollute water critical for grazing cattle, and that tax revenue will be short-lived and jobs will be temporary.

Environmentalists opposed to Keystone XL vowed “the fight’s not over yet” for the project and indicated their willingness to pressure banks to withhold funding for the project.

Trump Greenlights Keystone XL Pipeline From Canada, But Obstacles Could Delay Project

US President Donald Trump has approved a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline, clearing the way for the $8 billion project. Photo: AP

Reuters | March 25, 2017

US President Donald Trump’s administration approved TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline on Friday, cheering the oil industry and angering environmentalists even as further hurdles for the controversial project loom.

The approval reverses a decision by former President Barack Obama to reject the project, but the company still needs to win financing, acquire local permits, and fend off likely legal challenges for the pipeline to be built.

“TransCanada will finally be allowed to complete this long-overdue project with efficiency and with speed,” Trump said in the Oval Office before turning to ask TransCanada Chief Executive Officer Russell Girling when construction would start.

“We’ve got some work to do in Nebraska to get our permits there,” Girling replied.

“Nebraska?” Trump said. “I’ll call Nebraska.”

Trump announced the presidential permit for Keystone XL at the White House with Girling and Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, standing nearby. He said the project would lower consumer fuel prices, create jobs and reduce US dependence on foreign oil.

The pipeline linking Canadian oil sands to US refiners had been blocked by Obama, who said it would do nothing to reduce fuel prices for US motorists and would contribute to emissions linked to global warming.

Trump, however, campaigned on a promise to approve it, and he signed an executive order soon after taking office in January to advance the project.

TransCanada’s US-listed shares dipped 5 cents to close at $46.21 on Friday.

Trump has claimed the project would create 28,000 jobs in the United States. But a 2014 State Department study predicted just 3,900 construction jobs and 35 permanent jobs.

The president said he would get in touch with Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts later in the day.

TransCanada applied to the Nebraska Public Service Commission in February for approval of the pipeline’s route through the state. The company said it expects that process to conclude this year.

Ricketts said in a statement posted on Twitter that the project would help his state.

“I have full confidence that the Public Service Commission will conduct a thorough and fair review of the application,” he said.

The White House has said the pipeline is exempt from a Trump executive order requiring new pipelines to be made from US steel, because much of the pipe for the project has already been built and stockpiled.

Environmental groups vowed to fight it.

Greenpeace said it would pressure banks to withhold financing for the multibillion-dollar project, and others said they would fight the pipeline in court.

“We’ll use every tool in the kit,” said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defence Council.

Since Obama had nixed the pipeline based on an environmental assessment commissioned by the State Department in early 2014, opponents will likely argue in court that Trump cannot reverse the decision without conducting a new assessment.

Fred Jauss, partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney and a former attorney with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said local permitting would also be a challenge.

“The Presidential Permit is only one part of a web of federal, state, and local permits that must be obtained prior to starting construction,” he said.

“Other federal agencies, such as the Army Corps of Engineers, state regulatory commissions, and even local planning boards may have requirements that need to be fulfilled by Keystone prior to construction.”

“In addition, TransCanada may still need to reach deals with hundreds of potentially affected landowners on the pipeline’s route. There is a lot of work ahead for TransCanada.”

The Keystone Steele City pumping station, into which the planned Keystone XL pipeline is to connect to, is seen in Steele City, Nebraska. Photo: AP

The Keystone XL pipeline would bring more than 800,000 barrels per day of heavy crude from Canada’s oil sands in Alberta into Nebraska, linking to an existing pipeline network feeding U.S. refineries and ports along the Gulf of Mexico.

The project could be a boon for Canada, which has struggled to bring its vast oil reserves to market.

“Our government has always been supportive of the Keystone XL pipeline and we are pleased with the US decision,” said a spokesman for Canada’s minister of natural resources. “The importance of a common, continental energy market cannot be overstated.”

The president of the American Petroleum Institute, Jack Gerard, said the approval was “welcome news” and would bolster US energy security.

Expedited approval of projects is part of Trump’s approach to a 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure package he promised on the campaign trail. The White House is looking for ways to speed up approvals and permits for other infrastructure projects, which can sometimes take years to go through a regulatory maze.

TransCanada tried for more than five years to build the 1,897-km pipeline, until Obama rejected it in 2015. The company resubmitted its application for the project in January, after Trump signed the executive order smoothing its path.



Dozens Rally Against Keystone XL Pipeline on Fort Peck Reservation

Photo: For the Tribune/Richard Peterson)

Tribune | March 24, 2017

FORT PECK RESERVATION — Dozens of Fort Peck tribal members are hoping their 85-mile prayer walk across the reservation will bring more awareness to the soon-to-be-constructed Keystone XL pipeline and its potential danger to their water supply.

The walkers, some carrying an eagle feather staff and “No Oil” and “Mni Wiconi (Water is Life)” signs, set out Friday at dawn on U.S. Highway 2 by Big Muddy Creek, which is the eastern border of the reservation to protest the pipeline.

TransCanada, the parent company to the pipeline, is planning on building the controversial project several miles from the western border of the reservation and 40 miles upstream from the tribes’ multimillion-dollar water intake plant, which treats water from the Missouri River and disperses it throughout northeastern Montana.

On Friday, President Donald Trump signed a permit to allow the construction of the 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline that President Barack Obama had blocked in 2015.

TransCanada has said it will use the best materials and technology to build and maintain the pipeline, which will travel under the Missouri River, but many of those in the walk said it’s not a question of if the pipeline will break, but when.

“It won’t just affect us (if it breaks) but could affect our drinking supply, animals, crops and many of our traditional medicines that grow in the area,” said Cheryl Bighorn-Savior, a tribal member, nurse and diabetic educator.

“As a diabetic educator, I tell patients all the time to drink your water and grow your own garden to maintain their health.”

The day for the walkers began just before dawn when a water ceremony was held. Usually conducted by women in the tribe, the ceremony began and ended with prayer songs and the blessing of a pail of water that will be carried throughout.

At the end of the walk on Saturday on Porcupine Creek near Nashua and the eventual pipeline construction site, a prayer circle will be formed by the walkers and tribal members.

Tribal elder Cheyenne DeMarrias said not enough people appreciate what water does for their bodies and take it for granted.

“When I pray and fast, I always break it with water. It’s something that we can’t live without and everything Creator gave us needs water,” she said.

The plan for the walk was developed after TransCanada officials pulled out of a public meeting with the Fort Peck Tribal Executive Board for fear of protesters at the event.

About 50 people were waiting for the meeting and others waited outside the tribal complex holding signs and flags.

The company met via telephone with tribal leaders behind closed doors a few hours after canceling the public meeting.

The tribal government has been urging TransCanada to build the pipeline elsewhere and away from the reservation to protect the $200 million water pipeline project.

Some tribal council members have also suggested the company build on the reservation but downstream from the intake plant for the tribe to get some financial benefit from the project.

By Richard Peterson, For the Tribune Published March 24, 2017


Native American Spirit Camp Reacts To Obama’s Keystone Pipeline Decision


By Katie Scarlett Brandt | Huffington Post

As President Barack Obama announced a formal rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline this morning, Leota Eastman Iron Cloud stood in Alaska, crying.

For nearly two years, Iron Cloud had slept in a teepee in western South Dakota, part of a Spirit Camp set up in opposition to the TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone Pipeline. Native Americans from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe built the camp in 2013, fighting the pipeline’s construction due to environmental and public safety concerns.

“I’m still going through all of the emotions. I just want to hoop and holler,” Iron Cloud said, hours after President Obama’s announcement. “Although there are other issues like uranium mining and fracking, that pipeline was a major issue that was going to go right by our tribe. I’m so thankful to Barack Obama.”

In fact, the pipeline would’ve traveled so close to sovereign tribal lands near Winner, South Dakota, that designers had mapped a bend in the pipeline’s route. That close vicinity posed a threat to historic cultural sites, as well as water sources, said Keith Fielder, back in January.

A former engineer and archaeological monitor with the Rosebud Tribe, Fielder said, “It’s all about the water. We spend billions flying spacecraft to other planets to see if they have water, and we’re about to destroy ours.”

Iron Cloud, a Rosebud native, had traveled to Alaska at the end of October for work, which she said is difficult to find on the reservation. After the Keystone rejection announcement, she called home to the Spirit Camp.

“I wish I was there at the camp. They’re still there, standing strong all the way through,” she said, adding that camp supporters told her they were heading to the Rosebud tribal office for a victory song and to make celebratory plans.

During her year and a half at the camp, Iron Cloud educated visitors, prayed for protection for the earth, and served as a visual reminder of everyone who opposed the pipeline’s construction. But it was never easy, she said.

Iron Cloud sacrificed spending time with her family, having a job, and sometimes even eating–which she gave up to stand in solidarity with Native Americans on the reservation who go without food.

“My thoughts, heart and soul was all to the camp. I couldn’t go out. I couldn’t do all of the little things that people take for granted each day,” she said.

Spirit Camp members withstood threats, belittling and bullying from Keystone Pipeline supporters. They held their ground through extreme wind, rain and cold (as low as 20 degrees below 0), keeping warm by a fire in the center of the circle of teepees. Instead of beds, they slept on the ground in their teepees.

“But that’s what it’s all about, connecting with Mother Earth, feeling her, being with her,” Iron Cloud said.

Connecting with others is important, too. And Iron Cloud said she hopes the Keystone Pipeline’s rejection inspires other native tribes fighting to protect future generations.

“For everybody else around the world fighting for what they believe in, the message here is to stay strong, stay connected. We have our prayers, and our ancestors were behind us all the way. When people stand together, we can beat big oil,” she said. “People need to wake up to what is really real in this world, which is our earth.”

Even though she’s in Alaska for work, Iron Cloud said her heart is always out at the camp. But even 3,000 miles away, she can’t get away from hearing news of TransCanada, which is also working on a liquefied natural gas project in Alaska.

“I’m just living for the moment,” Iron Cloud said of potential future challenges. “I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Only Tunkashila (God) knows. I’m just so elated about the Keystone getting rejected and so thankful for all of the support, prayers, and thoughts. That really kept us going.”

Check out the Oyate Wahacanka Woecun Spirit Camp on Facebook, and share your own reaction to the pipeline decision.

Source: Huffington Post

Obama Rejects Keystone XL Pipeline After 7 Years

The Huffington Post

Environmental activists praised the decision.

President Barack Obama on Friday rejected TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported oil across the United States-Canada border.

After seven years of reviewing the project, Obama announced his final decision from the Roosevelt Room in the White House.

“The State Department has decided the Keystone XL pipeline would not serve the national interest of the United States — I agree with that decision.”

His rejection came after meeting earlier Friday with Secretary of State John Kerry, whose department oversaw the review.

Taking a jab at the politicization of the pipeline, Obama said it had become “overinflated” in public discourse.

“Shipping dirtier crude oil into our country would not increase America’s energy security,” Obama said.

Tensions over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline have been high for years, with Obama’s environmental base pressuring him to reject the project and Republicans in Congress voting repeatedly to force its approval.

TransCanada submitted its permit application for the 1,600-mile, $7 billion project to the State Department in 2008. Because the pipeline would cross an international border, the State Department is responsible for determining whether granting a permit for the project would serve the national interest.

The pipeline would have shuttled up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada’s oil sands to U.S. refineries. The southern portion of the pipeline has already been approved and constructed, and is pumping oil from Cushing, Oklahoma, south to Port Arthur, Texas.

The pipeline’s contribution to global warming is a main subject of contention for environmental groups and something the Obama administration has also cited in its consideration. In a major climate address in June 2013, Obama said the pipeline should only be approved if it “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

Whether it does has been one of the lingering issues for the administration as it evaluated the permit application. The State Department released a final environmental impact analysis in January 2014 that lent support to the pipeline’s approval, concluding that it would not substantially increase emissions.

But environmental advocates argued that construction of the northern portion would facilitate increased production in the oil sands that would not be economical otherwise and pointed out that the oil produces substantially higher greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude. And the Environmental Protection Agency also told the State Department that it should re-evaluate those projections in light of current oil price trends.

Green groups praised the president’s decision on Friday, calling it a “day of celebration.”

“President Obama is the first world leader to reject a project because of its effect on the climate,” said Bill McKibben, president of climate group 350.org. “That gives him new stature as an environmental leader.”

The Republican-led Congress passed legislation forcing approval of the pipeline in February,which Obama swiftly vetoed, saying it conflicted with “established executive branch procedures” and would cut short “thorough consideration” of its environmental and security implications.

But that consideration has dragged on for years. The administration delayed a decision after the environmental analysis was released, citing the need to wait for a lawsuit over the route through Nebraska to play out. Nebraska’s highest court allowed the pipeline route to go forward in January 2015, and the State Department asked other agencies to make their final comments on the pipeline by February. But the administration put off issuing its final decision, leading to months of speculation about when it might come.

TransCanada’s CEO Russ Girling has implied over the last year that were Keystone rejected, the company would look to rail to transport the oil from Canada. There is also a possibility the company will reapply, should a Republican take the White House in 2016.


Native American Spirit Camp Awaits New Keystone XL Pipeline Decision


By  | Huffington Post

With President Obama expected to give a final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline sometime this Labor Day weekend, the company behind the pipeline and people throughout the affected states anxiously await the verdict.

Back in February, President Obama vetoed a bill that would have approved the pipeline’s construction. In March, members of the Senate attempted to override that veto, but they failed. Some Americans cheered; others sneered; and many assumed that was the end of the Keystone XL. Now TransCanada Corp. and the people of Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska will get a new update from the State Department and Obama.

Because the proposed pipeline would cross an international border (between the U.S. and Canada), the State Department coordinates a required government-wide review. If they recommend approval, TransCanada could receive its coveted presidential permit to build the pipeline.

Typically, the government takes about a year and a half to make a decision on such applications. The Keystone XL permit has taken more than five times the average. Trapped in political turmoil, it has raised outcries from environmentalists, energy advocates, Republicans, and Democrats since 2009.

In South Dakota, which the Keystone XL pipeline would cross, a Spirit Camp of teepees set up in opposition to the project stands strong.

“We’re still here, and we’re going to be here until that pipeline is rejected,” says Leota Eastman-Iron Cloud, a Rosebud Sioux native who has lived at the camp for nearly two years. In doing so, she has set aside her own needs and time with family. Some days, she says she goes without food in solidarity with the people she has seen go hungry on the reservation.

“It’s all about prayer. Our prayers are powerful. Our prayers are all we have,” she says.

Members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe put up the teepees just north of Winner, South Dakota in March 2014. They stand under the name Oyate Wahacanka Woecun–Lakota for “Shielding the People.”

The teepees create a sacred space for people opposed to the pipeline’s construction for various reasons, primarily environmental and public safety concerns. At the Spirit Camp, the people can pray, rally, and offer support and education to other concerned citizens.


“The people who come here from all over the world bring so much powerful energy and prayers. That’s why we say ‘mitakuye oyasin.’ We’re all related–the insects, the rocks, the animals, the plants,” Eastman-Iron Cloud says.

The journey hasn’t been easy, she adds. The camp has survived subzero temperatures, battering rain and winds, and blistering heat. “We think about our future generations and water, and that’s what keeps us going. TransCanada wants us to give up, but we’re not going anywhere.”

The Interveners and TransCanada
In late July, representatives from TransCanada traveled to South Dakota for a week of public hearings. The company not only needs a presidential permit from the national government, but a renewed construction permit from the state of South Dakota.

South Dakota’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) will ultimately decide if the state will renew TransCanada’s permit. TransCanada must prove that it followed the PUC’s regulations since the commission first granted the original construction permit in 2010.

Some 400 people marched through the South Dakota state capitol of Pierre leading up to the hearings. And more than 30 people–Native American tribal members, landowners, members of Dakota Rural Action, and lawyers–stood up in court against TransCanada. They were dubbed “the interveners.”

Eastman-Iron Cloud attended the hearings and says, “The interveners’ words were straight up truth, just the facts. They went face-to-face with TransCanada. We wanted a constant presence of people, just like we’re doing here (at the Spirit Camp). Our water is the importance of all of this. That day, I heard one of the TransCanada people say that pipeline will cross 300 tributaries in South Dakota alone.”

One of the interveners’ main concerns was that TransCanada had purchased all of the pipe to build the pipeline sometime in 2010 or 2011, according to the DeSmogBlog Project, which reported in-depth about the hearings. For two and a half years, the pipe sat in piles outdoors in North Dakota, exposed to extreme heat and cold. The National Association of Pipe Coating Applicators recommends protecting piping left above ground within six months.

The interveners argued that in part because of the way the pipe was stored the Keystone XL will not be the safest pipeline ever built, as TransCanada has claimed. They also raised concerns over ongoing federal investigations into the pipeline’s southern half, renamed the Gulf Coast Pipeline, and other TransCanada pipelines.

In closing arguments on Aug. 6th, the lawyers on the side of the interveners called for the PUC to make a decision then and there, but TransCanada objected. Eastman-Iron Cloud and others continue to wait for a decision–from the PUC and President Obama.

“I’ve been bothering Obama every day on Twitter,” Eastman-Iron Cloud says. “It’s a waiting game. Patience really is a virtue.”

Regardless of the outcome, she adds, “We will never forget what TransCanada is trying to do. If they dig a hole into Grandmother Earth, we’ll be there.”


Sioux Nation Draws Battle Lines Over Pipeline Route

In testimony filed prior to the hearings, Young stated: "TransCanada has never demonstrated any respect for the Indian nations. That is why the PUC should deny certification of the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline Project."

In testimony filed prior to the hearings, Young stated: “TransCanada has never demonstrated any respect for the Indian nations. That is why the PUC should deny certification of the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline Project.”

By: Talli Nauman – Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor

PIERRE – TransCanada Corp. cannot meet the socio-economic conditions necessary for building the proposed Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline through Lakota treaty territory, representatives and expert witnesses for four tribal governments testified during hearings July 27 through Aug. 4.

The South Dakota Public Utility Commission scheduled the evidentiary hearings to air debate for its decision on the Canadian corporation’s request for renewal of a permit to build the line 314 miles through the counties of Harding, Butte, Perkins, Meade, Pennington, Haakon, Jones, Lyman and Tripp.

The permit would help the Canadian company reach its longstanding goal of connecting the Alberta oil shale fields with the refineries and export facilities on the Texas Gulf Coast. Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Councilor Phyllis Young said water quality is the main socio-economic concern. Treaty rights establish Lakota dominion over the air, land, and water that TransCanada Corp. seeks for the pipeline, but the company has not consulted with the tribe on that matter.

“I take objection with TransCanada, which does not have the authority to do that in this country. Treaties have set aside the homelands for us. Please understand, we are protecting our people,” Young said. “The ranchers, farmers, and Indians in South Dakota have not been consulted. I have a long history of relations with the people who want their homes to be protected, I speak for them also,” she said.

In testimony filed prior to the hearing, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Historic Preservation Office elaborated on the argument:

“The Keystone XL Pipeline (and other pipelines) will cross aboriginal and treaty territory that was exclusively set aside by the U.S. government for the Sioux Nation (Ft. Laramie Treaties of 1851and 1868).” The Sioux people were nomadic people and followed the buffalo. Our valuable cultural resources are located throughout the path of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Yet the proper procedures to make the requisite determinations have not been followed.

“The tribe said the permit renewal should be denied because “Keystone XL Pipeline is unable to continue to comply with Amended Condition number 43.” That condition of the original 2009 state permit, a document which has expired due to inaction, requires TransCanada Corp. to notify landowners if a possible protectable resource is found in the course of pipeline-related activities.

In testimony filed prior to the hearings, Young stated: “TransCanada has never demonstrated any respect for the Indian nations. That is why the PUC should deny certification of the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline Project.”

TransCanada Corp. attorney William Taylor said the company is not required to consult with tribes. “Government-to-government discussions are between the U.S. and tribes, not TransCanada and tribes,” he said. “This discussion is irrelevant.”

Commissioners granted Taylor the opportunity to file a post-hearing brief arguing the basis for his objections. He asked Young, “Are you familiar with TransCanada’s Indigenous People’s Policy.” She replied: “I’m not sure.”

The policy states: “TransCanada respects the diversity of aboriginal cultures, recognizes the importance of the land and cultivates relationships based on trust and respect; TransCanada works together with aboriginal communities to identify impacts of company activities on the community’s values and needs in order to find mutually acceptable solutions and benefits.”

Jennifer Baker, attorney for the Yankton Sioux Tribe, presented a portion of the policy statement and asked, “Do you think TransCanada complies with its own policy on aboriginal relations?”
Young answered, “No.”

Representing the Yankton Sioux Tribe was Faith Spotted Eagle, elected by the tribal General Council to the Ihanktonwan Treaty Committee, which she chairs. She said the objective of the Yankton tribe’s testimony was “to provide information to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission that the applicant does not continue to meet all conditions upon which the permit was issued including violations of treaties, socio-cultural threats, and threats to safe drinking water, in particular reference to the potential coming of man camps which presents a safety conference of an at risk population already threatened by violence.

“It is frightening to think that no fore planning has been done to even recognize what happens when man camps are plopped into rural communities where wide gaps exist in law enforcement further impinged upon by cross-jurisdictional problems between reservation and state areas, which are long standing issues,” she said.

“Man camps are inhabited by young and single men who are suddenly away from their families, spouses, and have the financial means to use and abuse illicit drugs. The result is easy to predict and does not require any scientific analysis – these young men, unfortunately, increase the crime rates including violent crimes, sexual crimes, and drug-related crimes. It is common sense that these men will need recreational outlets and will seek these at nearby casinos, including ours,” she said, citing the tribe’s Ft. Randall Casino and Hotel.

She noted that “the pipeline would trespass right through treaty territory guaranteed by the Ft. Laramie Treaty as well as additional lands beyond that area that are unceded lands, and we still retain a multitude of rights on those lands based on the treaty that are protected by federal law and that are vital to our cultural, spiritual, and physical survival.”

Among the rights are: hunting, fishing, gathering medicinal plants, use of the water, burial responsibilities, and sacred site protection, she said.

Yankton Sioux Tribal Police Chief Chris Sauncosi notified commissioners that he “can show that TransCanada cannot continue to meet the conditions upon which its original permit was issued.”

In a written statement, Sauncosi said, “I can provide testimony about the lack of interaction or communication between TransCanada and Tribal law enforcement and emergency response personnel.”

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Historical Preservation Officer Steve Vance, also formerly a law enforcement officer for the tribe, filed testimony stating that the pipeline construction phases “will greatly hinder the tribe’s and tribal member’s access to numerous cultural and historic sites. After all, people cannot simply walk through active construction zones to get to these sites.” If the pipeline is built, he said, “There will undoubtedly be an ongoing need for general inspection and maintenance of the completed pipeline. This, in turn, would place pipeline workers within the vicinity of many sacred places. Traditional practitioners seeking solitude while performing traditional worship practices would almost certainly be interrupted by pipeline workers. “As such, any disturbance by pipeline workers will necessarily have an immense negative impact on the ability of tribal members to perform traditional practices at these affected cultural and historical sites.

Vance compared the pipeline’s potential impact to the results of mining in the Black Hills. “This proposed project will have long term negative effects emotionally and spiritually on many tribal members.

Keystone held one teleconference some four years ago and made a visit to the tribal chairman’s office a year ago, according to Vance. However, he said, “The impacts to cultural resources could not be discussed during these preliminary meetings because the resources were not sufficiently identified at the time.”

He said measures to avoid and mitigate impacts on cultural and historic resources should have been addressed in a Programmatic Agreement, but the tribe “was not involved in the development of the P.A.”

Paula Antoine, Director of the Sicangu Oyate Land Office said the Rosebud Sioux Tribe “has passed resolutions to deny the KXL any access to our lands and in opposition of the pipeline. We view the KXL pipeline as the threat of “the black snake coming from the north” that was revealed to us through prophecy by our ancestors many years ago.”

She noted that a spiritual camp was established in March 2014 to publicly oppose “the black snake and all of the negative things it represents.”

She argued that “none of the testimony offered by Keystone or the PUC Staff shows or attempts to even demonstrate that the welfare of the citizens of South Dakota will not be impaired by the project. She said TransCanada has yet to prove its project will not pose a threat of serious injury to the socioeconomic conditions in the project area; will not substantially impair the health, safety, or welfare of the inhabitants in the project area; and will not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region.

None of the testimony offers any evidence regarding whether or not the project will continue to have minimal effects in the areas of agriculture, commercial and industrial sectors, land values, housing, sewer and water, solid waste management, transportation, cultural and historic resources, health services, schools, recreation, public safety, noise and visual impacts, she said.

Construction Equipment Guide, Published On: 8/10/2015


Native Americans fight to keep pipeline off their land

Chief Carlos Whitewolf of Lancaster sings a Native American prayer in protest of a pipeline project. The protest was outside a Republican Party retreat. (NATASHA KHAN, PUBLICSOURCE)

Chief Carlos Whitewolf of Lancaster sings a Native American prayer in protest of a pipeline project. The protest was outside a Republican Party retreat. (NATASHA KHAN, PUBLICSOURCE)

Chief Carlos Whitewolf beat a small hand drum and sang a Native American prayer for Mother Earth in the cold January air in Hershey.

Many of the 50 or so other protesters outside the Hershey Lodge, where national Republican Party leaders were attending a retreat, demonstrated against issues such as the Keystone XL Pipeline and climate change.

But Whitewolf, chief of the Northern Arawak Tribal Nation of Pennsylvania, was objecting to something more local — the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline project in Lancaster County.

Whitewolf calls the project “disrespectful” because the pipeline’s current route goes through parts of southwestern Lancaster County rich with ancient Native American artifacts and burial sites.

The project is a proposed expansion of a natural gas pipeline that would traverse about 190 miles, through 10 Pennsylvania counties: Lancaster, Clinton, Columbia, Lebanon, Luzerne, Lycoming, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties.

Opposition has been strongest in Lancaster County, where farmers, environmentalists, Native Americans and others have fought to stop the project since Williams Partners, builders of the pipeline, sought approval with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last spring.

The resistance to the project echos struggles against natural gas pipelines around the country. At a Jan. 27 National Press Club meeting, FERC Chairman Cheryl LaFleur said gas pipelines face “unprecedented opposition.”

“We have a situation here,” LaFleur said.

If President Obama’s recent Clean Power Plan is to succeed at reducing the output of carbon pollution by the United States, she said, it will need to rely on natural gas and a robust pipeline infrastructure.

That doesn’t bode well for opponents of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, who cite concerns including the environment, safety and property values. But, of all the protests, some see the Native American angle as their best bet to stop the pipeline or get it rerouted.

“The artifacts, the burial sites, the Native American occupation, is the only thing that is federally recognized,” said Robin Maguire, of Conestoga Township, Lancaster County. “That is the only thing FERC will listen to. They don’t want to hear how you bought your house for your retirement. They don’t care,” said Maguire, who is part of the Lancaster Against Pipelines group.

It’s normal for pipeline companies to conduct surveys to identify plants, endangered species and environments that might be disturbed by a pipeline. But going through land important to Native Americans may make the process even more sensitive.

By law, companies must survey land to find items and sites that hold cultural or historical significance. One of those could be Conestoga Indian Town, which many say is the most important Native American site in the state.

If the company finds anything relevant, FERC may require the company to reroute the pipeline, go under items or move them.

“If any sites are found or potentially found to be significant, then either avoidance of the resource or mitigation, such as data recovery, may be warranted,” Tamara Young-Allen, a FERC spokesperson, said in an email.

Data recovery means the company would be required to excavate items, Young-Allen said. Whitewolf and others are adamantly opposed to this option.

He has vowed that he and other members of the American Indian Movement will block bulldozers and occupy land if the project is approved.

In early January, eight people, including Whitewolf, were arrested after they blocked a Williams crew from conducting test drilling near a Native American site registered with the state.

But the company says all the uproar could be for nothing because the route of the pipeline will change before Williams submits its official application in March, and it could avoid sensitive cultural areas, said Christopher Stockton, a Williams spokesman.

He said Williams is aware of the cultural sensitivity of the area and, as required by law, is working with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to identify the areas and must follow state and federal protocols for avoiding such sites or finding ways to mitigate disturbance.

“We don’t just put a pipeline somewhere without doing our homework,” Stockton said. And the pipeline would never go through areas where human bones are found, he assured.

Despite what the company says, opponents are skeptical, and they’re using every means to play up the issue, including registering new Native American historical sites with the state.

For months, Maguire and David Jones, an amateur archaeologist and part of Lancaster Against Pipelines, have asked property owners in the area if they can search their land for artifacts. They’ve found tools, jewelry, weapons.

Archaeologists have said southwestern Lancaster County is a virtual smorgasbord of artifacts because it had the largest Native American settlements in the state.

“This is our Machu Picchu,” said Tim Trussell, a professor of archaeology at Millersville University, in testimony to FERC at an August public meeting. “There is literally nowhere else in the entire state that contains a greater concentration of archaeological sites, features, artifacts or human burials.”

Maguire and Jones have managed to find enough material to register eight new historical sites with the Historical and Museum Commission in hopes that their efforts will protect the land from the pipeline’s path.

They’re particularly concerned about the pipeline going through Conestoga Indian Town, an Indian refugee area in the early 18th century. The people were descendants of the Susquehannocks and occupied land reserved for them by William Penn. A famous Susquehannock chief is thought to be buried there.

The tribe was wiped out after members were murdered by the Paxton Boys, a group of maverick frontiersman, in 1763 in what is known as the “Conestoga Massacre.”

Today, there are no federally recognized tribes left in Pennsylvania.

Under the National Historic Preservation Act, federal agencies, in this case FERC, must require pipelines be built with minimal impact to historic or culturally relevant sites.

In addition to working with the Historical and Museum Commission to identify these areas, Williams has consulted with archaeologists to conduct shovel tests, digging small holes every 50 feet along the proposed route to look for artifacts.

But Maguire and others complain that those tests don’t go far enough and could miss important historic items.

“It’s just a one-foot hole every 50 feet. It’s nothing,” she said.

Trussell agreed in his testimony.

“Now you may believe that because an archaeological survey is being done prior to construction, any sites and burials on this route can be identified and avoided ahead of time. Unfortunately, this is not at all true,” he said.

When “skulls and femurs are being kicked up” by Williams’ equipment, there will be a “firestorm of public outrage,” he added.

The Historical and Museum Commission regularly reviews Williams’ plans and surveys for the project, said Howard Pollman, an agency spokesman.

“So far, [Williams] has been rerouting and trying to go around archaeological sites,” Pollman said. “We have been assured they have every intention of going around rather than through Conestoga town.”

FERC and Williams have also contacted federal and state recognized Native American tribes with ties to the area about the project. FERC asked tribes if they have any concerns about it and if they’d submit comments. The problem is, since Pennsylvania has no recognized tribes, none of the Native Americans contacted actually live in Pennsylvania.

Whitewolf, whose tribe is originally from the Caribbean and whose ancestors were relocated to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Cumberland County more than a century ago, was angry because he was not directly contacted.

He and other Native Americans feel it’s their duty to protect the land, bones and artifacts of these people.

“Who else is going to fight for them?” Whitewolf asked.

PublicSource is an investigative news group in Pittsburgh that’s funded by a combination of local and national foundations. The Morning Call is a news partner of PublicSource.