Pipeline Opponents Vow Fight As Trump Approves Keystone XL

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump issued a presidential permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, but environmental groups and Native American tribes vowed Friday, March 24, to fight the project in the courts and on the land.

The approval reverses a decision by former President Barack Obama to reject the project, which would bring more than 800,000 barrels per day of heavy crude from Canada’s oil sands in Alberta into Nebraska, linking to an existing pipeline network feeding U.S. refineries and ports along the Gulf of Mexico.

“TransCanada will finally be allowed to complete this long-overdue project with efficiency and with speed,” Trump announced from the Oval Office, adding that it would lower consumer fuel prices, create jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Keystone XL opponents renewed their commitment Friday to fight the project. “Resistance spirit camps” are expected to be erected along the Keystone XL route similar to the camps established by Dakota Access Pipeline opponents in North Dakota, said Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network.

South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes have said they will provide space to resist construction of the pipeline, said Goldtooth, who was a key figure at the main Dakota Access camp.

Pipeline opponents, bolstered by the unity they found while opposing Dakota Access, will likely work to fight the pipeline in various locations along the route, he said.

“Donald Trump should expect far greater resistance than ever before,” Goldtooth said Friday, March 24. “Indigenous people are rising up and fighting like our lives, sovereignty and climate depend on it, because they do.”

U.S. President Donald Trump smiles after announcing a permit for TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL oil pipeline while TransCanada Chief Executive Officer Russell Girling (L), U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (C) and U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry (R) stand beside him in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Others welcomed Trump’s approval of Keystone XL, including South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

“This is a victory for all of us who rely on oil to heat our homes, fuel our cars, and power our tractors, and pipelines are the safest and most efficient way to transport oil,” Daugaard said in a statement.

The governor added he recognizes that some South Dakotans will not celebrate the news and he respects their perspective.

“I hope we will all seek to exercise our First Amendment rights peacefully, and respect the right of others to do likewise,” Daugaard said.

Native American communities along the Keystone XL route have similar objections to this project that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others had against Dakota Access.

Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II said Keystone XL threatens the treaty lands of the Great Sioux Nation.

“We opposed Keystone before, and we’ll oppose it again,” Archambault said in a statement. “We’ve seen how the sentiment and worldwide support grew with the ongoing Dakota Access Pipeline battle. While we continue to fight DAPL in court, we will oppose Keystone on all fronts as well.”

Chairman Larry Wright of Nebraska’s Ponca Nation said during a conference call with reporters that he’s concerned about protecting water and preventing sacred sites from being disturbed.

TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said the company recognizes that construction activities would occur on tribes’ ancestral homelands. He said TransCanada is committed to building long-term relationships with indigenous communities “based on respect, trust, open communication.”

The biggest remaining hurdle for Keystone XL may be in Nebraska, where the state Public Service Commission is still reviewing TransCanada Corp’s application. Approval in Nebraska is needed before construction can begin.

In addition to Native American tribes, environmental groups like 350.org and others said they’re fighting the project. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said the organization plans to file a court challenge in the coming days.

The  multibillion-dollar pipeline linking Canadian oil sands to U.S. refiners had been blocked for years by Obama, who said it would do nothing to reduce fuel prices for U.S. motorists and contribute to emissions linked to global warming.

Trump, however, campaigned on a promise to approve it, saying it would create thousands of jobs and help the oil industry, and signed an executive order soon after taking office in January to advance the project.

Keystone XL would not cross North Dakota, but it would have the capacity to transport up to 100,00 barrels of Bakken crude a day from an oil terminal near Baker, Mont.

The need for Bakken pipeline capacity has changed significantly since Keystone XL was first proposed. With the addition of Dakota Access, North Dakota will have pipeline capacity for 1.3 million barrels per day. The state currently produces about 980,000 barrels a day, projected to return to 1 million barrels a day by the end of 2018.

At one time, Keystone XL had commitments to ship 65,000 barrels a day of Bakken crude, a 2014 State Department report showed. TransCanada would not comment Friday on the amount of Bakken crude committed to the pipeline, saying those discussions with customers are ongoing.

All three members of North Dakota’s Congressional delegation applauded Trump’s action Friday.

“Approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline is a clear signal that our nation is once again open for business and that we are committed to building the infrastructure we need now and in the future,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said the project will create temporary construction jobs and permanent jobs and displace oil from hostile countries with oil from “our friendliest, longest neighbor in Canada.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said the announcement is “important to renewing the United States’ commitment toward mutually beneficial energy solutions with Canada.”

Reuters contributed to this report

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