Noting a lack of “critical information” about potential impacts to water supply, sacred sites and other aspects of tribal life governed by treaty and environmental stewardship, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has urged the U.S. government to either fill the gaps in its environmental assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline or reject it entirely.
“While grateful for the opportunity to submit these comments, it is with great concern that NCAI submits our comments related to the proposed construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline and the DSEIS,” the NCAI said in a statement, referring to the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS). “NCAI has a number of environmental impact concerns, which are detailed in these comments, and is calling on the U.S. Department of State to adequately address and mitigate these concerns pursuant to requirements established by Executive Order 13175 for consultation with tribal governments.”
The U.S. State Department released a largely noncommittal draft environmental report at the end of March saying that the pipeline would neither influence climate change much nor create a huge number of jobs. (Related: State Department Draft Environmental Report Says Keystone XL Effects on Both Climate Change and Oil Supply Would Be Minimal)
This did not sit well with many Natives, who pointed out what they said were false statements, outright errors and mischaracterizations of such things as what constitutes consultation. (Related: Exaggerated Consultation Claims, Factual Errors in State Department's Keystone XL Environment Report Rankle Natives)
The public had until April 22 to comment. NCAI’s full comments are available for download. (Related: Anti-Keystone XL Tribal Members Urge Fellow Natives to Comment on Environmental Impact Statement)
The NCAI was especially concerned with the sections addressing spill prevention and remediation, the group said in its release. Also among the “points of concern” highlighted by the country’s largest advocacy organization for American Indians and Alaska Natives were the pipeline’s potential impacts on tribal natural resources, water quality and water supply systems; the possible effect on the Missouri River Crossing, important to the Fort Peck Tribes of Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, as well as the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe; potential threats to the Mni Wiconi Rural Water System, and the degree of consultation with and opposition of various tribal governments to the project.
“As a result of the findings included in our comments, NCAI is calling on the U.S. Department of State, to include in the final version of the SEIS critical information pertaining to tribal nations that is missing in the DSEIS,” the NCAI said, urging immediate further consultation with tribes.
“In total, if these concerns are not addressed sufficiently or mitigated to the fullest extent, it is in the best interest of the United States to reject the Keystone XL pipeline permit solely on the basis of the federal trust responsibility to tribal nations,” the NCAI said. “The project as outlined in the DSEIS poses tremendous risks to the cultural and natural resources of tribal nations and is not in the best interest of the tribal nations and their citizens.”