.D. tribe: Keystone XL 'an act of war against our people'

Jonathan Ellis, jonellis@argusleader.com 9:17 p.m. CST November 18, 2014

In this March 11, 2013 file photo, a sign reading "Stop the Transcanada Pipeline" stands in a field near Bradshaw, Neb., along the Keystone XL pipeline route through the state. (Photo: AP )

The president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in southern South Dakota says the tribe will not allow the Keystone XL pipeline to cross tribal lands, calling the project "an act of war against our people."

Rosebud President Cyril Scott's denunciation of the Keystone project came as Congress debates whether to bypass the Obama administration and authorize the nearly 1,200 mile oil pipeline. A number of Indian tribes have opposed the project.

Anti-Keystone activists erupted into Native American chants from the U.S. Senate gallery Tuesday after a bill to authorize construction fell one vote short of a necessary 60-vote threshold. One of the chanters who was arrested by U.S. Capitol Police was Greg Grey Cloud, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe from South Dakota.

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"The Lakota people have always been stewards of this land," Scott said. "We feel it is imperative that we provide safe and responsible alternative energy resources not only to tribal members but to non-tribal members as well."

But a spokesman for TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline to ship tar sands oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast, said the pipeline would not cross Indian lands.

"It doesn't cross any reservation lands or lands held in trust," Mark Cooper said.

Gary Hanson, the chairman of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, said the issue of whether the pipeline crossed tribal lands was an important one when the commission held hearings four years ago on whether to grant a permit to TransCanada. Hanson said that issue was "thoroughly examined" because the tribes are sovereign nations.

"Keystone XL endeavored to make certain that they did not cross any trust lands or reservations lands," Hanson said.

In a press release criticizing the project, Scott alleged that the pipeline would cross tribal lands, and he insisted that the reservation would be closed to Keystone. Scott and his spokesman did not return messages on Tuesday.

Keystone became a major issue for Republicans in the mid-term election, who argue that the project will promote jobs and energy independence. Environmentalists oppose the project because it will promote more carbon-emitting fuel and threaten underground water supplies with potential leaks.

The project has been held up by the Department of State, which must approve applications for pipelines that enter the United States from foreign countries. Last week, House Republicans passed a bill that would bypass that process and authorize construction. The a Senate vote on Tuesday failed to garner 60 votes.

The Keystone issue is likely to be revisited when Republicans take control of the Senate in January.

Cooper said TransCanada has a tribal relations team that attempts to address tribal concerns. The differences are often over the safety of the pipeline, which TransCanada officials believe is"100 percent" safe.

"We recognize there are strong feelings out there about the pipeline," Cooper said.

Keystone XL vote falls short in Senate

A vote Tuesday to authorize construction of the controversial pipeline project, which would cross South Dakota, fell one vote shy of a necessary 60 vote threshold.

All 45 Republicans, including Sen. John Thune, voted in favor of the bill, which was also supported by 14 Democrats. Sen. Tim Johnson opposed the measure.

Thune: "Approving this project is a no-brainer. It would invest billions of dollars in the U.S. economy and would put thousands of Americans back to work, all at zero expense to the American taxpayer."

Johnson: "The Senate did the right thing in upholding the established process that is in place to determine whether the construction of the Keystone pipeline is in the national interest."

Argus Leader reporter David Montgomery contributed to this report.




Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 5 years 1 day ago

WOW. The Republicons want to bypass the Department of State's application approval process for pipeline projects like the XL and just ram it through! Outrageous.

Kudos to the Lakota people for drawing a line in the sand! I hope they get tons of support from non-natives too. - AIW

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