August 18, 2011

NCAI Condemns Keystone XL Pipeline

keystone xl map 270x360 NCAI Condemns Keystone XL Pipeline

Click for an enlarged version of the pipeline map (image source: US Department of State)

In a resolution issued today, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has declared its official opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline.

“Keystone XL” is the name for the expansion of the Keystone pipeline, which currently runs from Hardisty, Alberta to Cushing, Oklahoma and Patoka, Illinois. Keystone XL would depart from Hardisty and take a more direct route to Steele City, Nebraska, parallel the extant Keystone to Cushing, then continue south to Houston and Port Arthur, Texas.

The NCAI resolution says that “based on the relatively poor environmental record of the first Keystone pipeline, which includes numerous spills, U.S. regulators shut the pipeline down in late May, 2011″ and concludes that “it is probable that further environmental disasters will occur in Indian country if the new pipeline is allowed to be constructed.” The resolution also acknowledges the opposition by the Association of First Nations of Canada, NCAI’s Canadian analogue, to tar sands development, and asserts that Keystone XL “would threaten, among other things, water aquifers, water ways, cultural sites, agricultural lands, animal life, public drinking water sources and other resources vital to the peoples of the region in which the pipeline is proposed to be constructed.”

Click to download the full NCAI resolution in pdf format: “Opposition to Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and Urging the U.S. to Reduce Reliance on Oil from Tar Sands and Instead, to Work towards Cleaner, Sustainable Energy Solutions”

“Homeland and economic security starts with energy security, but Indian Country wants it to be done right,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel in a statement released alongside the resolution, “not at the expense of the health of our communities and resources, both tribal and non-tribal. During challenging economic times in our country and in our tribal nations, domestic energy when developed responsibly can create jobs while ensuring that our people and natural resources remain safe and plentiful.”

The Keystone XL pipeline has caused outcry from the outset, both on environmental grounds and as an enabler of the U.S.’s much-discussed “addiction” to oil. The U.S. State Department released a sunny Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in April that declared the pipeline would have “limited impact” on the environment. In June, the Environmental Protection Agency shot back with a letter critical of the State Department’s assessment, voicing serious concern over (as summarized in a FoxNews.com report) “spill impacts, greenhouse gases and the pipeline route that goes right through a critical aquifer in Nebraska, including the Ogallala Aquifer that serves 30 percent of the nation’s agriculture.”

The NCAI resolution comes at a critical moment, as the State Department is expected to release its revised and final EIS this month.

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August 20, 2011

Anti-Keystone Protesters Arrested in DC; Mark Ruffalo Weighs In

Click here to view the embedded video.

Dozens of people have been arrested today at a sit-in staged in front of the White House to protest the proposed 1,700-mile-long Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to Texas, which President Obama is scheduled to mull over in the coming weeks.

About 70 people stood outside the north entrance of the building on Saturday August 20 with signs urging Obama to nix the plan by denying Calgary-based TransCanada a permit, according to media reports. Among the chanting protesters arrested were Gus Speth, who chaired the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, The Wall Street Journal reported. He also co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“If we hook up the Alberta tar sands to America’s insatiable lust of gasoline, I worry that you can just kiss the planet good-bye,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

The arrests come on the heels of the National Congress of American Indians’ (NCAI) August 18 condemnation of the pipeline. Protesters are mobilizing through the second half of August to bring attention to the damaging effects of the existing installations, which many experts say are among the planet’s worst carbon offenders.

In this video, Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo lends his support to the protesters.

“Up north where the tar sands are located, native people’s homelands have already been wrecked,” he says, directing those against the pipeline to Tar Sands Action’s website. “All that new oil will worsen global warming. It’s time for us to get off fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are over.”

He may yet join the likes of aboriginal actress Tantoo Cardinal, from northern Alberta, who CBC News said plans to join the fray early next week along with her friend, Canadian actress Margot Kidder.

Read in-depth coverage and history of the controversial oil sands at CBC News, see some videos and hear what Jon Stewart of The Daily Show has to say.

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August 24, 2011

Aboriginal Actress Tantoo Cardinal Arrested at DC Keystone Pipeline Protests

Born in Fort McMurray, Alberta, aboriginal actress Tantoo Cardinal had a front-row seat to the oil sands growing up. Now living in British Columbia, Cardinal (Métis, Cree) traveled to Washington with her friend and fellow actress Margot Kidder to join hundreds at a sit-in aimed at getting President Barack Obama to turn down the proposed 1,700-mile pipeline that would carry crude from the oil-laden fields in northern Alberta all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Both she and Kidder, a Canadian, were arrested, along with about 60 others, for violating a protest permit by sitting on Pennsylvania Avenue, on the in front of the White House and staying put when police told them to leave, Postmedia News reported.

Cardinal came, she said in this videotaped statement, because of the “absolute refusal and blindness” out there regarding sustainable energy.

“If there was any amount of energy, and time, and money, and education spent to wind energy, solar energy, and the natural ways of living a good life, then that would be some source of satisfaction,” she said in this video. “But the greed has not left. This that is going on right now is no different than all that has happened in the history of my people. This blind greed and meanness is what has annihilated so many nations of my people in genocide.”

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), among others, has condemned the pipeline.

Cardinal, who appeared in Dances with Wolves, Legends of the Fall and Smoke Signals, among other movies, also had a message for Obama:

“This will affect your children before your grandchildren,” the 61-year-old actress said. “And the power is with the people. You nourish people’s spirit, nourish their life, and that brings us together.”

There is wisdom in aligning with the forces of nature, she said. “It’s protection for our children and grandchildren.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

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September 2, 2011

Indigenous Oil Sands Protest Leads to White House Arrests

WASHINGTON—It was an emotional scene at the White House Friday as dozens of tribal citizens traded their precious freedom in exchange for the hope of protecting Mother Earth—not to mention their own cultures, health, and livelihoods.

In all, 166 people were arrested for committing acts of civil disobedience at the White House gates facing Lafayette Park. Their crime was carrying signs too close to the gates—signs printed with the words “Obama Honor the Treaties” and “Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline”—as they verbally implored President Barack Obama not to sign off on the creation of a vast cross-border pipeline project that could prove environmentally and culturally dangerous. The president was scheduled to be in residence at the time the arrests began, and he planned to travel to Camp David later in the day.

The Obama administration, led by Hillary Clinton’s State Department, is considering its position on the matter as top Canadian officials and energy magnates have already come out in support of the pipeline’s expansion through the U.S. If approved, the development would stretch from the northern reaches of Canada through the Great Plains and down south to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. Protesters cite environmental destruction, health and cultural impacts, and a lack of consultation with Indigenous Peoples who are already feeling the impact of the development as reasons for their concern.

debra 270x202 Indigenous Oil Sands Protest Leads to White House Arrests

Debra White Plume protests against the Keystone XL pipeline outside the White House just before her arrest.

“We have to stand up for Mother Earth. We have to stand up for our sacred water—for our children, our grandchildren, for the coming generations,” said Lakota activist Debra White Plume at a rally prior to her arrest. She said that the aftereffects of oil sands drilling that would come along with the expansion of the pipeline would likely desecrate the freshwater Ogallala Aquifer near her homelands in Pine Ridge, S.D.

“It is with great honor that I come here today to ask President Obama to stand with us for Mother Earth against Father Greed,” Plume said, adding that the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty could be violated if the pipeline crosses Native lands.

When White Plume was arrested as hundreds of onlookers watched, she calmly placed her arms behind her back as officers from the U.S. National Park Service cuffed her arms and led her to be taken to the city jail to be booked and released later in the day. Several Indians followed suit, peacefully submitting to arrest to document their displeasure for the history books, while hoping to have an impact on the immediate future.

The oil in Canada that would flow if the Keystone XL Pipeline expansion becomes a reality is contained in large underground formations called tar sands, and the extraction process is widely observed to be harmful to the land and can also pollute water sources. Another concern is that the company that owns the project has had several accidents involving its drilling projects in recent years.

Of those arrested, many were indigenous citizens of United States and Canadian tribes who journeyed long and far to the nation’s capital to make their voices heard against the development. One of the visitors, Chief Bill Erasmus of the Yellowknife Northwest Territories in northern Canada, said that fossil fuel development already taking place near his homelands, development that the proposed pipeline would expand upon, has already been a destructive force for Natives in the form of environmental pollution.

In light of his concerns, Erasmus was part of a group of indigenous citizens who recently sent Clinton a letter explaining their rationale for opposition. “Our people, in some areas, can no longer eat the fish,” he said at the rally. “Our people can no longer drink the water. Water levels are decreasing. Where I’m from, it’s never been like that before.”

In addition, such development is not necessary, he added.

“We’re saying that this pipeline is not needed,” Erasmus said. “The oil is not for America. The oil is for the highest bidder.”

According to indigenous and environmental organizers of the event, Obama has the ability to stop the pipeline in its tracks, even though its initial stages have already begun in Canada.

“If President Obama would just listen to what’s in his heart and not to the corporations, Barack you would know what to do,” said Kandi Mosset, who works with the Indigenous Environmental Network, at the rally. “Your heart tells you. Look at your little girls… What do you want them to remember from you when they grow up?”

Organizers said the number of people arrested during the indigenous gathering on the 13th day of ongoing protests was high compared to the numbers on previous days of arrests, which saw celebrities Daryl Hannah, Margot Kidder, and Tantoo Cardinal, a well-known Cree actress—as well as hundreds of non-famous citizens—arrested for the cause.

Beyond those arrested, hundreds more attended the late-morning protest, which drifted into mid-afternoon by the time everyone had been handcuffed. Throughout, the protesters remained in strong spirit, joking with each other as they waited their turns with police, and occasionally bursting into group chants such as, “No tar sands, no pipeline, no problems,” and, “This is what democracy looks like!”

Representatives of the National Congress of American Indians did not officially take part in the demonstration, even though the D.C.-based Indian advocacy organization in August issued a statement against the pipeline, saying it poses a major threat to Indians.

“The National Congress of American Indians is not involved in the civil disobedience actions at the White House,” said NCAI spokesman Thom Wallace. “However, we continue to communicate and stand firm on the position from our resolution that the pipeline poses grave dangers to tribal nations.”

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September 27, 2011

More than 100 Arrested at Anti-Keystone Protest in Ottawa

About 100 people were arrested on September 26 after climbing police barriers on Parliament Hill as they protested against further development of the Alberta Oil Sands.

The 400 total who protested the Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Alberta to Texas were peaceful, according to news reports.

Aboriginals on hand included Jackie Thomas, the chief of Saik’uz First Nation, a member of the Yinka Dene Alliance, Postmedia News reported.

She spoke out against the industry for the financial incentives that TransCanada, the pipeline’s would-be builder, has offered to First Nations communities in return for right-of-way through their territory.

“We’ve seen that routine in Canadian history and we say no,” she told the crowd, according to Postmedia News. “We say no to the destruction of our land, water and people.”

Bill Erasmus, chief of the Dene Nation in the Northwest Territories, also attended. The Dene are opposing Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, which would cut through British Columbia en route to the Pacific coast.

tar sands icon More than 100 Arrested at Anti Keystone Protest in Ottawa

“This is part of ongoing activity that is directly related to opposition of the tar sands,” he said in a statement before the protest. “From northern Alberta to the Arctic Ocean, our communities are directly downstream from tar sands developments. Water pollution and climate-changing greenhouse gases from the tar sands are impacting our rights—protected under Treaty 8 and Treaty 11—to hunt, trap and fish as we always have on our land. The Keystone XL pipeline expansion would facilitate a huge increase in tar sands expansion, and this pipeline must be stopped.”

Also attending and speaking was Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a member of the Lubicon Cree and a campaigner for Greenpeace, who spoke about the April Rainbow Pipeline oil spill that had caused burning eyes, headaches and nausea in her community, including among her family. It was one of the largest spills in Alberta’s history, and the effects are detailed in a video she made for Greenpeace.

“Our way of life is no longer the same. Our ecosystem is destroyed,” she said, according to Postmedia News. “The government denied the severity of an oil spill.”

The Lubicon Cree live near a pipeline that carries oil out of the sands. The spill prompted the weeklong closure of a school, among other problems.

The U.S. is in the middle of a 90-day approval period. Protests were held in Washington during late August and early September, with hundreds arrested, including aboriginal actress Tantoo Cardinal.

View some aerial shots of the oil sands, and read more about the controversy throughout the U.S. and Canada.

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September 28, 2011

Video: Aboriginals and Other Oil Sands Opponents Explain their Position

Click here to view the embedded video.

Monday’s protest outside the House of Commons in Ottawa against the Alberta Oil Sands netted more than 100 arrests—according to Greenpeace, which helped organize the demonstration, it was closer to 200—and brought together aboriginals and environmentalists from all across Canada.

tar sands icon Video: Aboriginals and Other Oil Sands Opponents Explain their Position

In this video you will hear from Bill Erasmus, Chief of the Dene Nation, which has come out against the Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Enbridge from the oil sands to the Pacific coast of British Columbia, and from Jackie Thomas, Chief of the Saik’uz First Nation and a leader of the Yinka Dene Alliance, which also opposes the pipeline.

“We are letting the Americans know that we do not support the Keystone XL pipeline,” Erasmus said before hundreds of protesters, pointing out that he has gone to Washington, D.C., twice this year to let the U.S. government know that.

Read more about the protest and, after you’ve watched the video, peruse some of Indian Country Today Media Network’s coverage of the Washington protests and surrounding issues, and click onto our slide show of aerial oil sands photos at right.

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October 6, 2011

Tribal Leaders Offer Last Push Against Keystone XL Pipeline

WASHINGTON – Tribal leaders have gathered in the nation’s capital to offer one final push against the U.S. State Department’s possible final approval of a pipeline that could have devastating cultural and environmental consequences for some Indians in North America.

The State Department is scheduled to hold a final hearing on Friday at the Ronald Reagan Building regarding its preliminary approval of the pipeline, granted in August to the developer of the project, the TransCanada Corporation. If the agency grants final approval, the proposed 1,711 mile, $7 billion pipeline, would be developed across tribal areas in both Canada and the U.S., through sacred lands and drinking water sources that serve indigenous populations. A final decision is expected from State in November; officials there have to date expressed opinions that the project will be environmentally safe.

Oglala Sioux Tribal President John Yellowbird Steele was one of about a dozen tribal leaders who attended meetings with State Department officials in the days leading up to the hearing to explain the tribal opposition. He brought with him a recent resolution passed by the Great Plain Tribal Chairman’s Association (GPTCA) in September. Of particular importance, the GPTCA resolution notes that TransCanada has so far offered a “relatively poor environmental record of the first Keystone pipeline, which includes numerous spills,” and highlights that “U.S. regulators shut the pipeline down in late May 2011.”

“[B]ased on the record of the first Keystone pipeline, and other factors, it is probable that further environmental disasters will occur in Indian country if the new pipeline is allowed to be constructed,” the resolution states. It also notes that several First Nations of Canada have passed resolutions supporting a moratorium on new tar sands development and expansion until an improved oversight system is in place.

The oil in Canada that would flow if the pipeline expansion becomes a reality is contained in large underground formations called tar sands, and the extraction process has been studied to be harmful to the land and can pollute water sources.

“[T]he United States is urged to reduce its reliance on the world’s dirtiest and most environmentally destructive form of oil – the ‘tar sands’ – that threatens Indian country in both Canada and the United States and the way of life of thousands of citizens of First Nations in Canada and American Indians in the U.S.,” according to the document.

The resolution also suggests that State did not properly consult with tribes along the route of the Keystone XL Pipeline and, as a result of the mechanisms used for what consultation was provided, the affected tribal nations were not provided the opportunity for “free and informed consent” – called for in the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the U.S. moved to support last fall – regarding the construction of the pipeline.

Debra White Plume, a Lakota activist who was arrested at the White House early last month while protesting the pipeline, also planned to deliver to State officials a “Mother Earth Accord” signed by some tribal governments in the U.S. and Canada in September. “We insist on full consultation under the principles of; free, prior and informed consent,’ from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples both in the United States and Canada,” reads one part of the accord. “We urge President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to reject the Presidential Permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Pat Spears, president of the Intertribal Council On Utility Policy, also in town for the hearing, said he believes Obama must be aware of the indigenous concerns, despite what Spears called “negligent coverage of major media.”

“We are told that the president usually doesn’t make these permit decisions, unless one of the leaders of the federal agencies involved (8 in this case) raises issues or opposes approval of the permit,” Spears said. “We think he should become personally involved in this decision as it has such far reaching impacts on the environment, human health, the economy, and climate change.”

To date, the most significant part of this determination process for Spears came in August when the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency issued the finding of “no significant impact” for the environment of the proposed project. “There have been 14 spills in one year on Keystone I also installed by TransCanada,” Spears said. “The projection was one spill in 7 years.

“A spill into the Oglala Aquifer, which stretches from Canada to Texas across 10 states, would contaminate water for over 2 million people and agricultural uses,” Spears said. “The tribes feel that this risk has been discounted.”

In trying to understand how Indians have come to find themselves in this situation, Spears said it is appropriate to look at how tribes are situated in the federal bureaucracy within the U.S. Department of Interior. “DOI manages minerals, mining, reclamation, land, parks, fish and wildlife—and Indians,” he notes. “We have always been viewed as part of resources to be exploited as part of the manifest destiny doctrine. Now is our chance to be recognized by the Department of State, as we should always have been, as nations of people.”

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October 12, 2011

Our Energy Future Rests on Obama

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Nellis Kennedy-Howard @ 6:11 pm

Today, President Obama has the choice. Clean technology is at our feet. Sustainable resources are in our hands. And here we sit, digging for oil. The State Department is currently reviewing a proposal to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a pipeline that will extend 2,000 miles across America to the Gulf of Mexico. Crossing over 70 rivers and streams, the pipeline will also cross critical water sources such as the Ogallala Aquifer. The pipeline is scheduled for review by the Obama administration with a congressional deadline demanding a decision by the end of 2011.

If built, this pipeline would carry some of the world’s dirtiest oil: tar sands oil. Mined in northern Alberta, tar sands oil is an unconventional oil that is locked up in a clay-like mud called bitumen. This mud lies 40 to 60 yards below the earth’s surface and requires a tremendous amount of water and energy to mine, as well as many more resources to be refined for use. Tar sands development is contaminating and deforesting the Boreal forest and the homelands of Indigenous First Nations in Canada. Waste ponds for the project already leak 11 million liters of toxic water into the environment each day and are anticipated to leak 72 million liters a day in 2012.

Oil companies are busy digging, sucking, and contaminating, all in the name oil. In doing so, they are also busy raising gas prices. With the construction of Keystone XL, oil companies are increasing how much you will pay at the pump. The Keystone XL is destined for the Gulf Coast and will bypass the Great Lakes region along the way. Recently leaked documents from Canadian oil companies indicate that new pipelines are intended to address the glut of Tar Sands oil in the Great Lakes region, and open up new export markets (hence the pipelines are destined for the Gulf and Canadian coasts). This does not mean lower prices, this means more oil being sent elsewhere. Directly impacting how much you pay at the pump.

Over the past two months, American citizens have been gathering in our nation’s capital to stand up and say that ‘We’re mad as hell and we don’t want dirty oil any longer.’ Celebrities and public figures such as Daryl Hannah, Tom Goldtooth and Gus Speth have taken a stand with over a thousand other citizens by being arrested in order to make the statement that tar sands oil is wrong.

What can be done? Congress has set a deadline to approve or deny the project by the end of the year. A deadline with no real purpose, other than to push the decision before it becomes an election issue. President Obama has the power to make a critical decision without the consent of Congress. Public hearings are now being held in the states slated for construction. The State Department will then issue their recommendation after receiving the feedback of impacted states. It is here that President Obama has the authority to either approve or deny the Presidential Permit needed to construct the pipeline.

Nellis is Co-Director for Honor the Earth, an organization to promote energy justice in Native America. She is a Dine’ graduate from the University of New Mexico School of Law with dual certificates in Federal Indian Law & Natural Resources.

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January 18, 2012

Keystone XL Pipeline Rejected, Indians Say Fight Continues

WASHINGTON – Citing a lack of time to review the Keystone XL Pipeline expansion through the United States, the federal government has rejected the plan.

The State Department, charged with overseeing transnational economic developments, confirmed the rejection on January 18. Officials there also made clear that the Obama administration will allow the company that owns the pipeline, TransCanada, to reapply for a permit to build through the U.S. after it develops an alternate route around Nebraska’s Sandhills.

“Earlier today, I received the Secretary of State’s recommendation on the pending application for the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.  “As the State Department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment.  As a result, the Secretary of State has recommended that the application be denied.  And after reviewing the State Department’s report, I agree.

“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” Obama added.

White House Spokesman Jay Carney noted in his daily press briefing on January 18 that Republican Congress members had inserted language into a bill before Christmas requiring a decision within 60 days, which, he noted, the State Department had already said was too short a time to study plans for an alternative route. The original route, through portions of Nebraska, was denied by the State Department on November 10. Officials there previously indicated they would need until 2013 to study alternative routes.

House Speaker John Boehner quickly hammered the decision, saying it would harm the American economy and prevent needed job growth. Many Republicans in Congress echoed Boehner’s position.

The 2013 deadline had earlier prompted cries that the Obama administration was playing a political game by trying to wait until after the 2012 presidential elections to make a decision, thereby not angering environmentalists and others who have staunchly opposed the pipeline altogether. Carney denied the political claims, saying that Republicans had tried to hijack a necessary review process that was intended to protect the health and safety of the American people.

The proposed 1,700-mile, $7 billion pipeline would have transported oil from tar sands in western Canada to refineries in Texas. It would have passed through Kansas, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.

American Indian activists have played a major role in protesting the pipeline, saying that it could harm the health and culture of tribal citizens living near the proposed pipeline. They have also cited a lack of consultation, and have pointed to negative consequences for their First Nations relatives in Canada who have already been impacted by pipeline developments there.

Indian protesters of the pipeline were largely pleased with the new rejection, but some said there was still a long fight ahead.

“An outright rejection by President Obama of the TransCanada application is the goal; this is a temporary victory—the oil industry will not give up its attempt to get their weapon of mass destruction approved for entry to this country,” said Lakota activist Debra White Plume in response to the development. “We must keep fighting, we must fight harder. If we say this is our Treaty Territory, we must be ready to defend it, we must be ready to defend our sacred water. Our love for Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) is strong, and our greatest weapon is prayer.”

Pat Spears, president of Intertribal COUP, the Council On Utility Policy, in the Northern Plains, said that
Obama and the State Department deserve thanks for having the “foresight and courage” to reject the permit application for the pipeline.

“The inflated numbers of temporary imported jobs are far outweighed by the existing and potential environmental damages, particularly for water pollution in Canada and in the United States,” Spears said. “Rerouting the pipeline through Nebraska does not decrease the potential risk and liability for damages to tribal treaty lands and populations along the pipeline.”

Spears said that tribal citizens should be encouraged by the decision, and that they should ask for a more detailed risk analysis of both economic and environmental issues for all people impacted by the Keystone XL Pipelines.

“The current and further impacts to the health of the people and homelands of the Cree and Dine Nations and climate change must be included and valued in the economics of the export of foreign oil across the United States,” Spears added.

As for next steps, White Plume, who was arrested in September for peacefully protesting the pipeline at the White House, said she believes that TransCanada will definitely re-apply for a permit in the U.S. to create an expansion along a different route.

“[T]he pipeline is a billion dollar business endeavor to them, they will not give up,” White Plume said. “Our sacred water is life and death for us, we will not give up either.”

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January 31, 2012

Oglalas’ Keystone XL Pipeline Position Issued

The Oglala Lakota Nation is grateful that President Obama denied a permit for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, but is concerned that his decision will allow TransCanada to “simply re-file its application for a Presidential permit,” said Tom Poor Bear, tribal vice chairman, who issued the Nation’s official position on the pipeline decision.

“Several members of Congress are already discussing ways to legislate around the Presidential Permit to allow construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline to start as soon as possible—in spite of the president’s recent decision,” he said.

The Nation’s position contradicts pipeline supporters who include business interests, some labor unions and others who tout the project as a source of jobs, a boost for the economy, and a step toward energy independence.

Among project supporters are Oklahoma Republican Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, both of whom would endorse a bill to bypass Obama and allow Congress to approve the pipeline under Constitutional powers. A similar bill in the House would grant Congress permitting authority under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Another supporter of the pipeline is Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who shared her thoughts following Obama’s rejection, “Given the economic instability in the world and the growing threats to our nation’s energy security, I am disappointed that the president would deny or further delay a pipeline that would deliver vitally needed jobs and provide oil from our most reliable ally and biggest trading partner.”

Poor Bear called out to Obama during his speech to university students in Denver in October, urging him to disapprove a permit for the $7 billion, 1,711-mile pipeline that would transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast and then, in many instances, to Asia. The president said, “I hear you,” and told the delegation that “no decision has been made.”

Two months after the president’s response to Poor Bear and an Oglala Sioux delegation, legislation was passed requiring a decision on the permit within 60 days, so that “Congress prevented the State Department from performing due diligence and completing the additional reviews it felt were necessary to make an informed decision,” Poor Bear said in a statement January 24.

The Nation is concerned that the presidential permit denial may raise false hopes, because his decision was not based on pipeline-created environmental hazards, nor did it take into account “the threats the inevitable oil spills would pose to human health,” the “few thousand temporary jobs and few, if any, permanent jobs,” or that the oil will be shipped abroad after the tar sands crude oil is processed in the U.S.

“Although these facts clearly show that the pipeline would not be in the national interest, the president chose to base his position on a procedural issue” by allowing TransCanada to simply re-file its application later, and “this is most certainly not the end of the road for Keystone XL,” he said.

Poor Bear said the Nation is thankful for “the temporary reprieve granted to our sacred Mother Earth,” but he noted that Rodney Bordeaux, Rosebud Sioux tribal president, said recently that tribes must remain vigilant.

“In the past few months, we have witnessed desperate and unconventional measures being used by Congress to impose the will of the wealthy elite on the American people to try to ensure themselves a steady revenue stream of dirty oil money,” he said.

“The fight against this pipeline is far from over; we must become as one to protect our mother, the earth, and future generations,” he said, urging “on behalf of the Oglala Lakota” for “each and every one of our relatives from other tribes and nations to stand with us in unity and solidarity to protect what is sacred.”

The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council earlier passed a resolution opposing the pipeline because it would involve “accessing a 300-foot-wide corridor through unceded treaty lands of the Great Sioux Nation” as included in the Fort Laramie treaties of 1851 and 1868.

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