TransCanada stockpiling pipe south of Shaunavon for the Keystone XL pipeline, July 8, 2011. Photo By BRIAN ZINCHUK
PIERRE (AP) — The Keystone XL oil pipeline developer said in a letter this week to a Native American tribal chairman that the company will start moving materials and preparing construction sites for the project in Montana and South Dakota.
TransCanada Corp. said in the letter to Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Harold Frazier, of South Dakota, that the work would start in July and go through the fall. The chairman on Thursday tweeted copies of TransCanada’s message and his response on the tribe’s letterhead: “We will be waiting.”
Frazier wasn’t immediately available on Friday to comment to The Associated Press. Keystone XL faces intense resistance from environmental groups, Native American tribes and some landowners along the route.
The project would cost an estimated $8 billion. The 1,179-mile pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries.
TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said in an email that the preparatory work will ramp up over the year to position TransCanada for construction in 2019. He said it would include moving pipe and equipment to start clearing activities to prepare for getting final permits and approvals for construction.
But the project faces legal hurdles. Nebraska landowners have filed a lawsuit challenging the Nebraska Public Service Commission’s decision to approve a route through the state.
A separate federal lawsuit brought by Montana landowners and environmental groups seeks to overturn President Donald Trump’s decision to grant a presidential permit for the project, which was necessary because it would cross the U.S.-Canadian border.
South Dakota’s Supreme Court in June dismissed an appeal from pipeline opponents — including the Cheyenne River Sioux — of a judge’s decision last year upholding regulators’ approval for the pipeline to cross the state.
An analyst says the shelving of TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East pipeline means it’s more vital than ever that three other pipelines to oil export markets proceed as planned.
AltaCorp Capital analyst Dirk Lever said Friday that Canadian producers will have to transport any new oil production over the next year or so using railcars because the pipelines leaving Western Canada now are essentially full.
He said the next capacity increase is expected to come with Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 replacement project, which is under construction and will add 370,000 barrels per day of capacity to the United States by early 2019.
But that additional room will only just accommodate new output from oilsands expansions and the situation will remain tight until the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline to the West Coast proposed by Kinder Morgan is in service, which is expected to add 590,000 barrels per day by late 2019.
TransCanada hasn’t yet approved its Keystone XL pipeline into the U.S., but Lever said its 830,000-barrel-per-day capacity will likely provide enough room for Canadian oil production growth until about 2030, when the industry expects Canadian production to reach five million barrels per day.
He said Energy East could come off the shelf if any of the other pipelines don’t go ahead, or if market conditions change to encourage higher production growth.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce in Calgary on Wednesday. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press )
Alberta’s climate change ‘leadership’ paved way for pipeline approvals, says Justin Trudeau
Staff | CBC News: Dec 21, 2016
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it was the Alberta government’s leadership role in tackling climate change that allowed him to approve two major pipeline projects.
He said that without the carbon tax introduced by NDP Premier Rachel Notley, Ottawa would not have been able to justify green-lighting the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and Enbridge’s Line 3 project.
“The fact that we are able to move forward on approving two significant, important pipeline projects for Alberta was directly linked to the leadership this Alberta government has shown … around the impacts of climate change,” he told reporters in Calgary.
The prime minister spoke earlier in the day at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce year-end breakfast.
Trudeau said opposition parties in Alberta that have vowed to scrap the carbon tax — which comes into effect Jan. 1 — don’t understand the new political dynamics at work.
Trudeau speaks to Arlene Dickinson at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce event. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)
He said putting a price on carbon and capping carbon dioxide emissions from the oilsands are necessary measures for Canada to move ahead with big projects such as pipelines, while still protecting the environment.
“Quite frankly, the fact that there are a number of opposition politicians out there who bizarrely seem to be crossing their fingers that these pipelines will not get built under this current government, I think, is really dismaying, and should be dismaying for Albertans,” he said.
Trudeau said his predecessor, Stephen Harper, who claimed to be a champion for Alberta’s energy sector, was unable to deliver on pipeline approvals because he, too, refused to accept that getting energy resources to market in the 21st century requires responsible leadership on the environment.
Keystone back on agenda
During a question and answer session following his speech at the chamber, Trudeau said he supports a renewed push to get the Keystone XL pipeline built, a project U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has vowed to approve shortly after he takes office.
Trudeau told the business audience that he and Trump discussed Keystone in their first conversation after the U.S. election.
“He actually brought up Keystone XL and indicated that he was very supportive of it,” Trudeau said during a question-and-answer session after his speech.
“I will work with the new administration when it gets sworn in … I’m confident that the right decisions will be taken.”
The 830,000 barrel per day pipeline would carry oilsands crude from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest. It was rejected by the Obama administration last year.
Trump has previously said he would approve the pipeline but wanted a “better deal” for the United States.
Trudeau said if the United States takes a step back on fighting climate change under Trump, Canada will capitalize.
Climate change is a fact and fighting it is where the rest of the world is going, he said.
And while there might be short-term benefit in ignoring it now, he said, if Canada sticks to its plan, the country will be attractive to investors who are looking decades down the road.
Pipelines safer than rail, PM says
Trudeau said moving crude oil via pipeline is safer for the environment and more economical than moving it by rail.
Almost all of Canada’s oil is currently exported to the U.S. Pipelines that carry oil from Canada are at capacity, so a lot of it is going by rail. Canadian oil also faces a significant discount in U.S. Midwest refineries because it’s heavier and more expensive to refine than light crude.
Alberta’s premier could find herself at odds with both Trudeau and Trump on the issue of Keystone, said Duane Bratt, who teaches policy studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
“She hasn’t said a word, one way or the other, about Keystone, since the American election. And she had always been opposed to it,” he said.
“It was easy to be opposed to it when you saw that Obama was about to get rid of it.”
Calgary on Ottawa’s mind
Trudeau said his government’s decision to green-light Trans Mountain and Line 3 shows that Calgary is top of mind in Ottawa under his leadership.
“What happens in Calgary is important. It’s important to Alberta and all of Canada,” he said.
“And as I said in making the announcement, these approvals are a major win for Canadian workers, for Canadian families and for the Canadian economy.”
Trudeau said the projects will create upward of 22,000 jobs and demonstrate to Canada and the world that responsible resource development can happen in concert with solid environmental protections.
“That way of thinking, that we have to choose between growing the economy and protecting the environment, simply doesn’t work,” he said.
Cheers from business crowd
Speaking ahead of Trudeau’s address, Calgary Chamber of Commerce president Adam Legge drew a round of applause from the business crowd as he praised the Liberal government for approving Line 3 and Trans Mountain in the face of stiff opposition from environmentalists.
“We thank you for your leadership and your courage in that decision,” he said.
“Getting more resources to market was a critical missing element of our national infrastructure. We are all buoyed by this decision and are ready to get to work.”
Tyrone Cattleman, a member of the local plumbing and pipefitting union who came to hear the prime minister speak, said he’s optimistic about the new pipeline projects.
“I really hope he goes through with those plans, to create more jobs for the younger generation,” he said.
Pipeline construction in British Columbia. (Gary Campbell For The Globe and Mail)
By Christopher Adams in Analysis, Energy | Sept 22nd 2016
Several large Canadian pipeline projects are continuing to move through the approval process in the face of mounting opposition.
Although there have been setbacks, industry lobby groups are aggressively pushing back against arguments that their projects aren’t compatible with action on climate change.
Keystone XL was rejected by U.S. President Barack Obama, prompting a lawsuit. Trans Mountain is facing fierce opposition from environmentalists and indigenous leaders in B.C.. The Energy East hearings derailed after a National Observer report detailed private meetings between review panelists and a TransCanada consultant, former Quebec premier Jean Charest.
The latest development came Tuesday when proponents of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline said they will not appeal a Federal Court of Appeal decision in June to quash Ottawa’s approval of the $7.9-billion project. The federal government then announced it won’t appeal, either. The court had ruled the approval must be set aside because government had failed in its duty to consult with aboriginal people.
And on the land of two First Nations in Canada — the Mohawk in Montreal and the Musqueam in Vancouver — Indigenous nations across North America signed a historic pan-continental treaty allianceon Thursday against oilsands expansion in their traditional territory.
As opposition mounts, here’s an update on the status of all major LNG and oil pipeline projects in Canada.
A look at the route of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would carry 525,000 barrels per day just northeast of Edmonton to Kitimat, B.C. Graphic from Enbridge’s Northern Gateway website.
Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline would ship 525,000 barrels per day of oilsands crude from northeast of Edmonton to Kitimat, B.C.. Its goal is to sell Alberta crude to Asian markets. A parallel line would bring 193,000 bpd of toxic bitumen-thinning diluent in the opposite direction.
Northern Gateway has been hugely controversial. The idea of crude-oil laden supertankers navigating the choppy waters of the Douglas Channel on their way out to the Pacific is a non-starter for many British Columbians. The line also crosses tracts of unceded First Nations territory in B.C., which has many aboriginal groups — especially on the coast — staunchly opposed to it.
Until the June court decision, Enbridge held a federal permit to build Northern Gateway, granted in mid-2014. On Tuesday, the company urged the federal government to meet its constitutional obligations to meaningfully consult with First Nations and Metis to get the project back on track.
A graphic shows the proposed route of TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East pipeline between Hardisty, Alberta and Saint John, New Brunswick. Graphic from National Energy Board website in September 2016.
TransCanada Corp., the same company behind Keystone XL, applied to the National Energy Board in October 2014 to build the Energy East Pipeline. The $15.7-billion project aims to ship 1.1-million barrels of Alberta crude a day across six provinces and 4,600 kilometres.
The pipeline would supply crude to import-dependent eastern refineries, as well as export landlocked Alberta oil to Europe and India. Energy East would repurpose existing natural gas pipe for about two thirds of the route and build new pipe through Quebec and New Brunswick.
Three days of National Energy Board hearings were held in August in Saint John, but hearings in Montreal the following week were postponed and then cancelled after protesters disrupted proceedings. They accused panellists of bias after reports published by National Observer revealed that two of them had met privately in January 2015 with former Quebec premier Jean Charest, a consultant for TransCanada Corp. at the time.
In early September, the three-member panel recused themselves. NEB chief executive Peter Watson and vice-chair Lyne Mercier gave up their responsibility to appoint a new panel, instead leaving the job to the government. Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has said the promised 21-month review process for Energy East could be “modestly” delayed as a new panel is chosen.
TransCanada says construction would begin shortly after approval, with the goal of shipping oil in 2021.
TransCanada applied for U.S. permission to build its Keystone XL pipeline in September 2008. The idea was to extend an existing cross-border pipeline to give oilsands crude a more direct route to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.
At the time, TransCanada thought the XL segment would make its way through the regulatory process just as smoothly as the previous phases. It was wrong.
The stretch of pipe cutting a diagonal line from the Saskatchewan-Montana border to southern Nebraska became the focal point of the environmental movement. Debate over Keystone XL centred not only on the environmental impacts on the American Heartland in the event of a spill, but on its broader role in hastening climate change.
After a seven-year regulatory saga, U.S. President Barack Obama rejected Keystone XL last November. Now, TransCanada has set in motion a US$15-billion challenge under the North American Free Trade Agreement, arguing it was treated inequitably. It has also launched a separate federal lawsuit seeking a declaration that Obama overstepped his constitutional power.
The Canadian arm of U.S. energy giant Kinder Morgan is aiming to nearly triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline to 890,000 barrels of oil per day. The existing Trans Mountain line currently has capacity to ship 300,000 bpd of various petroleum products from the Edmonton area to the B.C. Lower Mainland and Washington State.
The $6.8-billion project has faced stiff opposition from those who don’t want to see more crude-filled tankers moving through the Burrard Inlet. Protesters held up survey work on Burnaby Mountain late last year.
Kinder Morgan filed its regulatory application for the Trans Mountain expansion in late 2013. The National Energy Board hearing process for Trans Mountain has been highly criticized, with commenters and intervenors withdrawing from the process. The board has issued 157 draft conditions that Kinder Morgan must meet if the project is to be approved, and the company says that’s achievable.
In November, a report is due from a three-person federal review panel doing indigenous consultations. The federal government has vowed to decide whether or not to approve Trans Mountain before the end of December.
Pacific Northwest LNG
The $36-billion Pacific Northwest LNG project is a liquefaction and export facility and pipeline on northeast British Columbia’s Lelu Island. Led by Malaysia’s state-owned energy giant Petronas, the controversial project — which is still awaiting federal approval — would export B.C. LNG to Asian markets and would add an estimated $2.9-billion annually to Canada’s GDP. Petronas also estimates that, if approved, the project would generate up to 4,500 jobs during peak construction.
The Pembina Institute claims that the project could become the largest source of carbon emissions in Canada and that its construction would “seriously undermine” Canada’s commitment to emission reduction targets set in Paris late last year. If constructed, Pembina says the single project would take up as much as 87 per cent of B.C.’s 2050 allowed emissions under the provinces legislated target.
Construction would take around four years, with Petronas hoping to start exporting LNG to Asia by 2020 to 2021. A decision is expected in early October following a final report from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
But this project is also facing some controversy due to recent reports of turmoil at Petronas, the Malaysia state energy company that is the lead shareholder of the project. The Vancouver Sun reported this week about a “jaw-dropping” audit showing that Petronas was “struggling with major safety and structural problems in its Malaysian offshore operations.”
Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre gas pipeline and LNG facility
Woodfibre LNG Limited is currently awaiting a final investment decision on its LNG processing and export facility just outside of Squamish, B.C. housed in the former Woodfibre pulp mill facility.
The $1.6-billion project received the federal stamp of approval earlier this year when Environment and Climate Change Canada said that the project is “not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.” Opponents of the project criticized the Trudeau government for approving the project, citing dangers to local aquatic wildlife and broken election promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Woodfibre LNG Limited estimates that the facility could export around 2.1-million tonnes of LNG per year to markets in Asia.
The provincial government also gave environmental approval to FortisEnergy B.C.’s Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre Gas Pipeline project, which would see an additional 47 kilometre pipeline built to transport natural gas from Vancouver Island to the Woodfibre facility outside Squamish.
Enbridge obtained regulatory approval for its Line 9B reversal and expansion project in March 2014. The original Line 9 has been in the ground for four decades and had been running from Montreal to southwestern Ontario since 1998. But given shifting market dynamics, Enbridge decided to restore its flow to its original west-to-east configuration.
That would enable crude to get to Quebec refineries, like Suncor Energy’s facility in eastern Montreal. The project also involves boosting the line’s capacity to 300,000 barrels a day from 240,000 barrels.
Work on the project has been complete since the fall of 2014. The National Energy Board gave its blessing to start Line 9B last year and it is currently operational.
Enbridge receivedapproval from the National Energy Board to expand and modernize its aging Line 3 pipeline on April 25, 2016. The replacement project, described as the Calgary-based pipeline company’s largest, is expected to double the amount of crude piped from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin to 760,000 barrels per day. The company will spend $7.5-billion to replace the 50-year-old pipeline infrastructure, nearly doubling the pipeline’s carrying capacity.
Although it already has presidential approval — the stamp that Keystone XL never received — Enbridge recently pushed its expected completion date back to 2019 due to other regulatory restrictions in the U.S.
-With files from Elizabeth McSheffrey and The Canadian Press’s Dan Healing.
“Wocekiye Unwohiye” Success through Prayer. Photo: Facebook
For Immediate Release: 11/10/2015
Rosebud, SD Tribal Nations ranchers and farmers from South Dakota and Nebraska to celebrate the Death of the Black Snake / Keystone XL rejection.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe announced this morning that they will be hosting a Keystone XL Rejection Victory Celebration. The celebration is titled “Wocekiye Unwohiye” Success through Prayer. The Celebration will take place at the Sinte Gleska University Multi-Purpose Center, 101 Antelope Lake Circle, Mission, South Dakota over two days.
The two day celebration is in tribute of another great victory that of the Battle of the Greasy Grass aka Battle of the Little Big Horn. On June 26, 1876, 139 years ago this battle took place and the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota Cheyenne and Arapaho defeated the US Calvary. The victory celebration and dance was held in Rosebud and hosted by the Sicangu Oyate soon after. Which has become an annual event. Paula Antoine Tribal member and event organizer stated “At that time tribal nations were faced with insurmountable foes, the US Calvary for one. Today our allies are not only our Tribal relatives but allies from across the country farming and ranching communities from along the proposed route were joined by national environmental groups together we stood against a giant sent by big oil and we defeated it.”
The two day celebration will be focused on honoring key individuals and organizations who were instrumental in organizing efforts against the Black Snake event will start at noon and will be as follows;
On Friday November 13th The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will be hosting a closed ceremony for the tribe and tribal members at the tribal bldg.
On Saturday Nov 14th at 12pm cst the tribe is inviting all of the allies, partner organizations and media from across the nation to attend this Keystone XL rejection victory celebration.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is grateful and honored by President Obama’s decision and looks forward to recognizing the grassroots, tribal, local, state, and national efforts in helping reject the pipeline. Through unity we ensured a better world for our grandchildren.
A yard in Gascoyne, ND., which has hundreds of kilometres of pipes stacked inside it that are supposed to go into the Keystone XL pipeline, should it ever be approved are shown shown on Wednesday April 22, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON – A U.S. lawmaker boldly predicted Tuesday that President Barack Obama is about to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, after years of delay and debate.
The surprise statement came on floor of the U.S. Senate, from an unexpected source.
Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican critic of the president and a staunch defender of the Canada-to-Texas pipeline project, is unlikely to be privy to White House planning.
But rumours of an imminent rejection have swirled around Washington in recent days and Hoeven made them very public. In a chamber speech, he claimed to know what Obama will decide, when he’ll decide it and what logic he’ll use in making his long-awaited announcement.
The repercussions of a decision could ripple beyond the oil industry and environmental movement and make themselves felt on the campaign trail in upcoming elections in both Canada and the U.S.
The North Dakota senator said the president will make the announcement after Congress adjourns in two weeks for its summer recess, when Washington is quiet.
“Sources tell me that after almost seven years, President Obama is going to turn down the Keystone XL pipeline project,” Hoeven said.
“He’ll wait until Congress is out of session for August. And then he’ll turn the project down while Congress is not in session, to have less pushback, less criticism of his decision if you will, make it under the radar.
“That’s understandable, because he’s making a political decision rather than a decision based on the merits.”
He said Obama will base his decision on environmental grounds — and he blasted the president for that, saying his own State Department concluded the pipeline wouldn’t increase pollution.
If the rejection comes, Hoeven previewed a line of attack Republicans will use: A comparison with Iran. Hoeven noted the irony of denying a permit to a Canadian oil project, right after the Obama administration agreed to a nuclear deal that allowed an increase in Iranian oil exports.
“The president is making it harder to produce energy at home, here in our country and get energy from our closest friend and ally, Canada, (but) he wants to make it easier to produce oil in Iran. Think about that.”
Keystone XL would carry about one-quarter of the oil Canada exports to the U.S. each day and ease potential bottlenecks on rail lines, but its U.S. opponents argue that it would help develop one of the world’s dirtiest sources of oil.
The issue has become a fault line in the U.S. debate over climate change and energy politics. Republicans staunchly support the project. Democrats are divided and the issue has proven especially uncomfortable for presidential contender Hillary Clinton, who sidestepped a question about it for the second straight day Tuesday.
Her rival Jeb Bush criticized her, in a possible foreshadowing of the 2016 presidential campaign: “The president has to make lots of tough calls,” Bush tweeted after the latest Clinton non-answer.
“Supporting Keystone XL and North American energy security is an easy one.”
The issue also has political overtones in Canada.
The NDP has expressed opposition to the project. The Liberals support it, and blame the Harper government’s inaction on climate change for making Canadian oil controversial in the U.S. The Harper government also included a domestic political shot in its reaction to Tuesday’s news from the U.S..
Asked about Hoeven’s remarks, the Canadian government issued a statement saying it didn’t want to interfere in the American debate, but would continue defending the pipeline.
The statement concluded with: “Justin Trudeau says Canada needs a price on carbon. His risky scheme would set hard-working Canadian families back and hurt Canada’s economy and competitiveness.”
The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hoeven’s remarks.
Republican Senator James Inhofe, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, brandished a snowball while giving a Senate speech about the “hysteria on global warming” on February 26. (Screenshot via C-SPAN)
Eight Democrats align with Republicans in attempt to force tar sands pipeline project
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday failed to override President Barack Obama’s recent veto of legislation approving the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project.
The 62-37 vote fell just five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to nullify the presidential veto.
Eight Democrats—the very same lawmakers who voted to approve the $8 billion pipeline project in January—voted to override the veto. They are: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mark Warner (Va.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Tom Carper (Del.) and Jon Tester (Mont.). Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly, who also backs the pipeline, missed the vote.
Failure to override the veto does not mean that the Keystone project is no longer a threat, environmental advocates warned on Wednesday afternoon after the vote.
In a reference to a recent stunt pulled by Republican Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), during which he brandished a snowball on the Senate floor as evidence against climate change, 350.org U.S. communications manager Karthik Ganapathy said in a statement: “This vote does to Keystone XL what Jim Inhofe’s snowball does to the overwhelming consensus on climate change: absolutely nothing.”
“Congress has known from the beginning this bill would be dead on arrival—a fact even Denier-in-Chief Inhofe acknowledged when he said last week that Big Oil simply doesn’t have the votes to override,” Ganapathy continued. “Keystone XL has always been President Obama’s decision, today does nothing to change that, and we’re confident the President will do right by our climate and reject the pipeline once and for all.”
According to The Hill, undeterred proponents of the pipeline vowed to attach its approval to an upcoming transportation bill or include it in a broader energy package.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
On Feb. 24, president Obama vetoed a congressional bill that would have approved the Keystone XL pipeline expansion. Although the debate surrounding the project was widely seen as a conflict between environmentalists and industrialists, the case also raised important questions about one of America’s oldest bad habits: trampling on indigenous rights.
The Rosebud Sioux, also known as the Sicangu Lakota, reside on a reservation that includes all of Todd County, South Dakota, and additional lands in the four adjacent. That land, originally encompassing all of South Dakota west of the Missouri River, was entreatied to the greater Sioux nation in 1851 and 1868, but has been gradually reduced to its current boundaries by decades of territorial whittling by the federal government. Only in 1934 were the Rosebud Sioux officially recognized as a self-governing nation—see the Indian Reorganization Act (pdf)—and thus formally allotted ownership of land that, prior to the arrival of European colonists, had been their’s for centuries.
Today, life on the typical Native American reservation is far from perfect: Poverty, high unemployment, substandard education and healthcare are all major issues these communities face. Choosing to live on reservations, therefore, can be a powerful statement of sovereignty. To some, it is an act of self-determination intended to stand against centuries of forced-assimilation policies which stripped land, resources and even children from tribal communities.
Keystone XL brought this hard-won spirit of sovereignty under threat. The plan to expand an existing oil pipeline system, linking oil-rich tar sands in the Canadian province of Alberta with refineries and distributors across the US, would essentially bisect South Dakota, cutting straight through Rosebud Sioux tribal land. A longtime topic of concern for environmentalists, the Keystone XL pipeline raised hackles, being yet another instance in which the American government attempted to circumvent Native sovereignty in the pursuit of economic gain.
Passions boiled over in November following a vote in the US House of Representatives approving expansion. In a press release issued in response to the vote, Rosebud Sioux tribal president Cyril Scott said, “Authorizing Keystone XL is an act of war against our people.” It was a statement intended to stoke passions, and perhaps rightfully so.
Tara Houska, a tribal rights attorney in Washington, DC, and a founding member of NotYourMascots.org, is more measured in her wording, but generally agrees with Scott’s assessment of the situation. The risk for local tribes would have been huge. Keystone XL brings with it the risk that spilled diluted bitumen, or “dilbit,” might contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, the only source of drinking water for tribes like the Rosebud and Ogallala Sioux, that latter of which Houska helped negotiate terms of the project.
In the event of a spill, “what does the federal government expect them to do?” Houska told Quartz, “Survive on bottled water? For years? Are they serious?”
Federal disregard for Native stakes in the pipeline expansion are part of a larger pattern of inattention, she added. Many area tribes, including the Ogallala Sioux, feel they were inadequately consulted by authorities in Washington prior to congressional approval earlier in February. “When I got brought in, they had already had their quote-on-quote consultation,” Houska said. Washington’s envoys were apparently well out of their depth, seemingly unaware (or uninterested) in Keystone XL’s specific impact on Sioux reservations. “[Tribal representatives] ended up leading the meeting!”
Even if a major industrial project, such as Keystone XL, skirts officially recognized tribal boundaries, sufficient consultation with area tribes is required by law, she explained. “There are often times when we have rights to treaty lands that were never officially ceded.” The lackluster meeting between Ogallala Sioux representatives and federal authorities “did not meet the requirements of consultation,” she said.
In addition to potential environmental impacts, tribes require consultation on projects like Keystone XL for a number a reasons, chief among them issues pertaining to community safety. “It’s going to bring a large number of men into the area,” Houska said, citing concerns raised by South Dakota law enforcement and women’s rights advocacy-groups. The housing of about 1,000 pipeline laborers, mostly men, in TransCanada work camps placed close to reservations could cause an uptick in sexual assaults against area women. Native women are already2.5 times more likely to be victims of sexual violence than women of any other race, reports Mary Annette Pember for Indian Country Today. “The perpetrators of this violence are overwhelmingly non-Native,” she noted.
Beyond the practicalities of community health and security, the potential impact of the pipeline on the earth is of course of great concern as well. But, for Natives, a commitment to environmentalist values extends far beyond the political. “As a woman, I’m a waterkeeper. That’s part of my culture,” Tara Houska explained. (She is Minnesota Anishinaabe and a citizen of the Couchiching First Nation in Ontario.) “Being stewards of the earth, moving beyond fossil fuels, is more than just about sustainability for us. It’s a cultural requirement.”
“The Lakota people have always been stewards of this land,” president Scott said in his statement, insisting that weaning society off of its fossil-fuel dependency is key to brighter futures both on and off reservations. “We feel it is imperative to to provide safe and responsible alternative energy resources not only to tribal members, but to non-tribal-members as well,” he added. “We need to start remembering that the earth is our mother and stop polluting her, and start taking steps to preserve the land, water, and our grandchildren’s future.”
“It’s the fourth-largest aquifer in the world,” Houska said of the Ogallala Aquifer. “The largest in the United States. It provides 30% of the irrigation water for the country.” Any future industrial projects in the region could have similarly devastating aftermaths. “This issue affects you, whether you live on a reservation or in a big city.”
President Barack Obama vetoed the Congressional approval of the Keystone XL pipeline Tuesday although he made clear he wasn’t making any final decision about the merits of the controversial Canadian pipeline.
“Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest,” the president said in a letter to the Senate. “Because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest – including our security, safety, and environment – it has earned my veto.”
Mr. Obama’s veto – only the third of his presidency – will escalate the battle between Congress and the president over the Canadian pipeline that would send Alberta oil sands crude to the Texas Gulf coast.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest stressed that the veto didn’t signal Mr. Obama’s final decision on Keystone XL. “The president will keep an open mind,” he said, adding Mr. Obama will eventually decide based on the best interests of the United States. “It certainly is possible that the president will” approve Keystone XL, he said.
Keystone XL backers in Congress vowed to fight back.
Republican leaders accused the president of pandering to powerful green groups who claim Keystone XL will trigger massive expansion of Alberta’s carbon-heavy reserves and thus worsen greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change.
“The allure of appeasing environmental extremists may be too powerful for the president to ignore,” said the top two Republicans in Congress in a jointly penned article for USA Today. “But the president is sadly mistaken if he thinks vetoing this bill will end this fight,” vowed Senate Majority Leader Mitch, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner.
It’s not yet clear whether the Republicans – along with Democrat backers of TransCanada Corp.’s $8-billlion pipeline, will attempt to round up the necessary two-thirds majorities needed in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to override a presidential veto.
The prospects look grim.
Although 63 senators backed the Keystone XL approval bill – essentially an attempt to wrest control of the decision from Mr. Obama who has repeatedly delayed deciding on the project for years – that’s short of the 67 needed to override a veto. And while nine Democrats joined the 54 Republicans who, in the wake of last November’s mid-term gains, now hold a majority in the Senate, chances of finding another four votes seem slim.
In the House, where the Keystone XL approval bill passed 270-152, finding the 288 votes to override Mr. Obama would be even harder.
That won’t end the showdown.
“Keystone is a no-brainer in every way,” Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell said, echoing the phrase used by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who has lobbied relentlessly on behalf of TransCanada over the contentious pipeline that has soured bilateral relations.
Republicans and Democratic backers of Keystone XL claim Mr. Obama is out of step with the majority of Americans and bipartisan support of the project in Congress. “This White House refuses to listen and look for common ground. It’s the same kind of top-down, tone-deaf leadership we’ve come to expect and we were elected to stop,” Mr. Boehner and Mr. Connell said.
The White House has said Mr. Obama’s veto shouldn’t be seen as his final decision on the merits of the long-delayed project. “The reason the president will veto this bill is because it circumvents a longstanding approval process” used by presidents of both parties to evaluate projects like Keystone XL, Mr. Earnest said. The veto “does not represent his position on the pipeline itself,” he added.
A final decision may come later this year, once the State Department’s long-running assessment of the project is complete.
Crews work on construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline near County Road 363 and County Road 357, east of Winona, Texas on Dec. 3, 2012. (AP / The Tyler Morning Telegraph, Sarah A. Miller)
Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama is about to make good on his oft-stated threat to veto legislation to build the Keystone XL pipeline, a spokesman announced Monday.
“I would anticipate that, as we’ve been saying for years, the president would veto that legislation,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told a press briefing.
“And he will.”
The Republican-controlled Congress passed the legislation earlier this month, and plans to send it to the president Tuesday. The president then has 10 days to send it back to Congress unsigned — which constitutes a veto.
Earnest said that’s exactly what the president will do. And he’ll do it quietly, without a public event.
“I would not anticipate a lot of drama or fanfare.”
The announcement is a blow to the pipeline’s prospects, but not quite a fatal one. The big Keystone XL decision could come soon, in a separate regulatory process controlled by the president.
Obama has repeatedly said it’s not Congress’s role to approve or reject cross-border infrastructure. The White House says courts have consistently declared that the constitutional responsibility for that belongs to the president, and that the process was most recently spelled out in a 2004 executive order signed by George W. Bush.
The years-long, oft-delayed process is expected to wrap up soon, though the White House has not set a deadline date.
Members of Congress have also mused that if the president both vetoes the pipeline bill and rejects the project through the regulatory process, they’ll come back with another Keystone XL bill that attaches the pipeline to omnibus legislation that the president will be tempted to sign.
Polls show a plurality of Americans support the project.
The sponsor of the Keystone bill announced it would be sent to Obama on Tuesday. Republicans could have sent it a week earlier, before lawmakers left Washington for a one-week recess. But they decided to hold off until this week, forcing Obama to make his decision with his opponents back in town.
“The administration has delayed this important infrastructure project for over six years, despite a series of environmental reviews, all of which conclude that the project will have no significant environmental impact,” said a statement from North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven.
“It has been more than enough time to make a fair decision on the merits of the project… The will of the American people and Congress is clear. I encourage the president to sign this legislation.”
Hoeven issued that statement Monday morning. The White House responded with its veto announcement just after noon.