South Dakota Tribes not alone in KXL fight - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

South Dakota Tribes not alone in KXL fight

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President Obama is expected to make a decision on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline the coming months.

If approved, it would carry tar sands from Canada, through South Dakota, to the Texas Gulf Coast.

On one side, the president faces pressure from political and business interests - both domestic and abroad - to get the pipeline built.

Then, there's the opposition. South Dakota's Tribes have been some of project's most vocal - and visible - dissenters. A camp now sits near the proposed KXL route in rural Tripp County. It gives a physical presence to the project's opposition. It's on Rosebud Sioux Tribal land, but Native Americans aren't alone in the fight.

Jane Kleeb, executive director of BOLD Nebraska, has been working with landowners, "Along that path, we've formed relationships with the Tribes, so we've formed the Cowboy and Indian Alliance. In order to show the opposition of farmers and ranchers as well as tribes against the Keystone XL Pipeline."

Wayne Frederick makes his living off the land, "I'm a seventh generation rancher. And it's the oldest in Todd county. And we do have family tracts within Tripp County, specifically where the pipeline wants to go through over by Colome."

"Nowadays, cowboys and Indians are working together to ward off whatever poses a threat against us," said Rosebud tribal member Greg Grey Cloud.

"We have common ground now. The fight has always been internally between the cowboys and Indians about the land and so that's switched now. The energy is toward protecting that common ground that we have," said Yankton Sioux tribal member Faith Spotted Eagle.

"I believe its not just an Indian issue. It's a person issue. It's a humanity issue. I mean, if someone was coming into your home and trying to take it, what would you do?" said Crow Creek Tribal Chairman Brandon Sazue.

Reasons behind the opposition are numerous as well.

"It violates the U.S. Constitution in the 1868 treaty. The Constitution says treaties are the supreme law of the land," said Rosebud Sioux tribal member Wizipan Little Elk.

"We're here to protect our environment, our water, our land, our air. So this should be something on everybody's mind," said Rosebud Sioux Tribe Chairman Cyril Scott.

Shawn Bordeaux is with the Rosebud Tribal Utility Commission, "From what I understand, this isn't even a type of petroleum that will be used for any vehicles or and machinery that will affect the United States. It wont go into any of our tractors or anything. Any spills will affect not just the land that they're on, but it will affect all the land surrounding them as well."

"I'm a mom of three little girls. I'm concerned about a maximum capacity 36-inch tar sands pipeline going through our water and going as close as 50 feet to people's homes," said Kleeb.

"I never even saw myself as an environmentalist and once I found out what they were trying to push on our American people, it was like an outside entity, Canadian owned, and only certain individuals who are interest holders in that corporation are going to get wealthy off this," said Frederick.

Another big concern centers on eminent domain, which is the power to seize private land for public use.

"When  eminent domain was first used, it was supposed to be used for common purpose projects. Things like roads or transmission lines that we would use every day. This is an export pipeline by a foreign company. That goes against the very nature of what - I think - Americans think eminent domain should be used for," said Kleeb, "We may be fine with Canada, we might think they're friendly, but what if Russia wants to use eminent domain? Or China or Saudi Arabia? So this is setting a really bad precedent for the use of eminent domain to take away property rights."

"A pipeline would come through here, from Canada, going ultimately for a couple of folks , the Koch brothers in Houston. It would seem this is all about them. This is about Canada and this is about China or some other place. The last thing its about is the United States," said Bordeaux.

Although their allies are numerous, Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer says South Dakota tribes have no problem leading the charge, "We're taking the first step, probably because we come from a warrior societies. And we're not going to sit back and watch."

Tribal members, land owners and environmental advocates will bring their fight to Washington, D.C. later this month. They will set up another camp - complete with tipi's - on the National Mall for a week-long protest.

TransCanada has issued the following response:

"For more than 60 years, TransCanada has known that a collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship with the communities we live and work in is not only the right thing to do, but also critical to our business interests. For the past five years, we have been working very hard to be open and fair with all South Dakota landowners and tribal communities we have dealt with during the development of the Northern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline. We enter into good faith negotiations to compensate landowners for pipeline easements on their property and we make it clear that we are committed to working not just with the landowners directly involved in our projects, but the broader communities where we operate, over the entire life of our facilities.

"For this project in particular, our success rate with landowners would be very difficult to beat. That is because 100 per cent of the private easements needed in the State have been achieved through generous compensation agreements. We consider these landowners now part of the 60,000 Americans and their families who are our partners in delivering the natural gas, oil and electricity that is an essential part of all of our daily lives. That is why it was so unfortunate to see KSFY's recent story focus in on the opinions of a few, rather than seeking an understanding of the collaborative work done to date in the State with landowners."

It is also important to address comments made in the story about our efforts to work with South Dakota's Tribes and ensure that all measures are taken to safeguard neighboring lands and water.

"As we anticipate a decision on the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, we look forward to continuing to build strong relationships with tribal communities along the proposed pipeline route. TransCanada recognizes the diversity and uniqueness of each Tribe, the importance of the land, and the imperative of building relationships based on mutual respect and trust.

"We've been working with many Native American tribes since 2008 and have been keeping them informed throughout the process even though the Keystone XL pipeline doesn't cross any reservation lands or lands held in trust.

 "We have a deep level of cultural awareness which allows us to engage in enhanced dialogue with tribal communities including any regulatory or construction concerns surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline. It also provides a foundation for tribal members to become involved in TransCanada's operations.

"Along with maintaining transparency during our operation activities, TransCanada hopes to broaden awareness, understanding and acceptance among individuals of Tribal ancestry about pipelines. Whether through traditional culture initiatives, education and training programs, direct job creation, or the fostering of indigenous contracting, TransCanada encourages the involvement of indigenous cultures and strives to build long-term trust and respect with tribal groups.

Finally it is important we address deeply erroneous statements made about the crude oil transported through this pipeline and where that energy will be used and who will benefit from this important piece of North American energy infrastructure..

"Whether it is from the Canadian oil sands or the U.S. Bakken formation, the crude oil transported by the Keystone XL pipeline behaves like - and is used similarly to - all crude oils that have been a needed supply of energy for Americans for more than 150 years.

"Contrary to comments made, Keystone XL is not an export pipeline and the Koch family is neither a shipper nor a receiver on the pipeline. In fact, Keystone XL represents a continuation of the tremendous and close energy relationship between Canada and the United States – one that will continue to allow Americans access to affordable energy from a friend and neighbor. Canada is already the largest supplier of crude oil to the United States and oil transported by Keystone XL will replace foreign oil from places like Venezuela and the Middle East, and continue to be used to fuel the lives, cars, trucks and tractors of Americans."

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