2017-03-08 / Top News

Rosebud one of first opponents of XL Pipeline

Pipeline would transport foreign oil, made with foreign steel, to foreign countries
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today Health & Environment Editor

South Dakota legislators in Pierre address resolutions on TransCanada Corp.’s renewed attempt to obtain permits for the construction of the Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline. 
COURTESY/Dakota Rural Action South Dakota legislators in Pierre address resolutions on TransCanada Corp.’s renewed attempt to obtain permits for the construction of the Keystone XL tar-sands crude-oil pipeline. COURTESY/Dakota Rural Action PIERRE –– As tribal plaintiffs headed to the courthouse here March 8 in their appeal against TransCanada Corps’ state permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline route across Lakota Territory, South Dakota legislators enshrined language straight from the corporation’s promotional materials in a resolution to support the project’s permitting.

The Cheyenne River and Yankton Sioux tribes, together with the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy (COUP), the Indigenous Environmental Network, the statewide grassroots Dakota Rural Action, other organizations, and individuals, gave notice in February 2016 of the suit appealing the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) permit renewal for the Alberta-based TransCanada Corp. to build the proposed toxic tar-sands crude line across South Dakota.

Citizens have fended off TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL tarsands crude oil pipeline across Lakota Territory for eight years, with prayer gatherings and ceremonies such as this water blessing in Pierre in 2015, which was among actions that led up to denial of a federal permit. 
ARCHIVES Citizens have fended off TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL tarsands crude oil pipeline across Lakota Territory for eight years, with prayer gatherings and ceremonies such as this water blessing in Pierre in 2015, which was among actions that led up to denial of a federal permit. ARCHIVES “We want to encourage people to be there and take a stand,” said Dakota Rural Action Black Hills Chapter Coordinator Tamra Brennan in the lead-up to the court date. The organization provided transportation from Rapid City to the hearing and to a related gathering with speakers being held in Pierre on the same date, she told the Native Sun News Today.

The plaintiffs in the case before the South Dakota Sixth Circuit Court argued that Judge John Brown should order the commission to reconsider its state construction permit grant. For one thing, they said, the commission violated its own conditions in approving the permit before the company had all other permits needed.

One of the permits TransCanada Corp. lacks is none other than the federal Presidential Permit, which the past Administration of Barack Obama denied in November 2015, on the grounds that the foreign-owned private infrastructure project is not “in the national interest” of the United States.

Another outstanding permit TransCanada Corp. requires is from the Nebraska’s Public Services Commission for construction across the state.

Pipeline foes said they wanted the South Dakota permit decision remanded to the state PUC after a passerby discovered a 400-barrel (16,800-gallon) toxic tar-sands crude leak from the company’s Keystone I Pipeline near Freeman on April 20, 2016.

That line spouted leaks 14 times in its first year of operations alone. The commission needs to open the record to new evidence showing “how TransCanada hasn’t met conditions and promises made in the pipeline’s original permit,” Dakota Rural Action said.

Meanwhile, on Feb. 28, the South Dakota Legislature adopted Concur rent Resolution 1013 ‘’to urge the United States Department of State to approve the Presidential Permit application allowing the construction and operation of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline between the United States and Canada.”

The language in all 12 paragraphs of the resolution traces back directly to oil company presentations, such as the backgrounder TransCanada Corp. provided to legislators invited on a three-day junket in 2012 to visit the tar sands of Alberta Province, Canada, source of the gummy black gold bitumen that would be diluted to form dilbit and flow through the U.S. heartland on the Keystone XL.

Shortly after the trip, lawmakers of Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, Mississippi and Louisiana voted for resolutions with very similar wording to South Dakota’s act five years later.

President Donald Trump, inaugurated on Jan. 20, fulfilled a campaign promise when he invited TransCanada Corp. to re-submit its application for a Presidential Permit on Jan. 24, and directed the Secretary of State to “take all actions necessary and appropriate to facilitate its expeditious review.”

TransCanada Corp. immediately accepted the offer, submitting an application to the State Department on Jan. 26.

“I've always believed this is a very important project for both of our nations, from a security standpoint, from an energy independence standpoint, and from a safety standpoint,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada Corp.’s president and CEO.

TransCanada Corp. proceeded to make a Feb. 16 announcement of its state application to start building in Nebraska, with Girling emphasizing, “As we have said consistently, safety and a respect for the environment remain our key priorities.”

Following a Feb. 27 agreement with the State Department the company stipulated to a NAFTA court’s one-month suspension of its $15- billion lawsuit against the United States for “lost revenue”, or money it could have made if it had proved worthy of a Presidential Permit in the past Administration.

Pursuit of the case at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes may be impacted by a statement Trump made to Congress that day, in which he specified that his Jan. 24 executive order to the Commerce Department requiring pipelines be built with U.S. steel only applies to new projects.

Since TransCanada Corp. already has stockpiled a lot of pipeline sourced from abroad from Russia and India, the order would be inconvenient for the company if applied to the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Although TransCanada Corp. personnel have described the project as an “expansion” of its already built Keystone pipeline infrastructure, a White House spokesperson told Politico Magazine on March 2 that the Keystone XL Pipeline ‘is currently in the process of being constructed, so it does not count as a new, retrofitted, repaired or expanded pipeline,” and therefore can use foreign raw materials.

The White House statement came two days after confirmation of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, until then a board member of the world’s biggest steel company, the Luxembourg-based Arcelor- Mittal, which has been a major provider of Keystone XL Pipeline materials.

According to his company’s documentation, “its plant in Bremen, Germany, sold dozens of kilotons of steel to Arkansas-based Welspun Tubular, which used the material to manufacture spiral welded pipe for the project,” The Daily Beast online news outlet reported March 3.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has been among the most active opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline, helping support grassroots operation and maintenance of a spirit camp along the slated route since 2011.

Members of Nebraska citizens’ Bold Alliance have been fending off the pipeline construction for eight years and will continue to do so, they say. Some of them are plaintiffs in the South Dakota case to remand permitting to the PUC.

“Keystone XL is a foreign-owned pipeline, using foreign steel, (to transport a product) headed to the foreign export market,” said Bold Alliance President Jane Kleeb. “Bold continues to stand with farmers and ranchers to protect property rights from being infringed upon by a pipeline for their private gain,” she said, adding, “Keystone XL is and always will be all risk and no reward.”

Adversaries agree, water supplies are threatened by pipeline spills, treaty land rights are violated by construction, and states should not grant eminent domain for the seizure of private property along the route, because the project is a private venture, rather than a public utility.

In the South Dakota Senate, SCR 13, “To require the payment into the federal oil spill liability trust fund for the Keystone I Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline and to recognize dilbit as oil,” was tabled in the State Affairs Committee on Feb. 27 after a previous failed attempt to pass it.

The bill noted, “The Internal Revenue Service ruled that tar sands oil imported into the United States is exempt from the federal oil spill liability trust fund tax because it is synthetic petroleum and not oil; in 2015 the National Academies of Sciences determined that American oil spill procedures are inadequate to deal with tar sands and dilbit oil spills;

“The Natural Resources Defense Council notes that pipelines in the upper Midwest that routinely carry oil from tar sands have spilled 3.6 times more oil per pipeline mile than the United States average; the owners of the Keystone I Pipeline and the potential Keystone XL Pipeline have given their word that they will pay for any tar sands oil cleanup required from a spill, however, there is no bond requirement to provide such assurance;

“The United States Senate passed a Sense of the Senate resolution that stated the eight-cents-per-barrel federal oil spill liability trust fund tax should be paid by pipelines carrying dilbit oil; and it is especially concerning to the residents of South Dakota that the potentially hazardous dilbit oil is pumped across our state with no assurances as to who will pay for any potential cleanups that may be necessary.”

On the other hand, South Dakota elected officials, in their resolution to support the project, highlight the company’s argument that the Canadian crude would bolster U.S. energy consumption and security.

“A secure supply of crude oil is not only needed for Americans to continue to heat their homes, cook their food and drive their vehicles, but to enable the United States economy to thrive and grow, free from the potential threats and disruptions of an unreliable crude oil supply from less secure parts of the world,” the resolution states.

“The increasing production of conflict-free oil from Canadian oil sands can both replace crude oil imported from countries that do not share American values and add additional pipeline capacity to refineries in the United States Midwest and Gulf Coast,” it states.

Although this language can be found in TransCanada’s publicity, the State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the project makes clear that nothing requires the fuel shipped on the line to go to U.S. consumers.

Instead, the “Purposes and Needs” chapter states, “The exact mix and volumes of crude oil types that would be transported by the proposed project, as well as the final destination of those crude oils, would be determined by market forces.”

The company wants the pipeline to connect the Alberta Province tar-sands pits to Texas Gulf Coast refineries and export facilities via a route through 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. The Keystone I Pipeline serves that same purpose.

If federal and state governments permit the new infrastructure, 314 miles of pipe in South Dakota would be part of the construction to link up with line the company already laid in Kansas and Oklahoma, despite numerous sustained protest activities there.

(Contact Talli Nauman at

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