Tribes Incensed at Being Closed Out of Upcoming Keystone XL Hearings in South Dakota

South Dakota Public Utilities Commission says South Dakota tribes can't give evidence during July hearings on whether to re-certify Keystone XL bid.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has ruled against allowing tribal input at a hearing at the end of July that will determine whether TransCanada needs to resubmit its application to run the Keystone XL pipeline through that state.

“Tribal Nations, traditional treaty council members and grassroots leaders are outraged over the decision to exclude aboriginal rights and off-reservation rights from the discussion on whether the KXL pipeline permit should be granted re-certification,” said the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) in a statement. “The nine tribal nations of South Dakota all stand in resistance to the proposed tar sands pipeline.”

The commission also ruled out testimony about climate change, which would factor in issues that have sprung up in a changing environment, the IEN said.

“The KXL pipeline, if constructed, will drive expansion of the energy carbon-intensive extraction and processing of tar sands from under Canada’s Boreal forest, increasing global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions,” the IEN said in a statement. “The Mni Wiconi water system, over which the KXL pipeline would have to cross in three locations, provides drinking water to thousands of Native and non-native people in western South Dakota.”

The IEN’s position is supported by numerous studies, and an unusual consensus of diverse groups of scientists and researchers, which say that in order to avoid catastrophic climate change, most Alberta oil sands deposits—the source of the oil that would flow through the Keystone XL pipeline—should be left in the ground.

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The IEN is concerned about a number of specific issues, including the potential lack of a spill response plan in the event of a pipeline leak; the route itself, which takes the pipeline “through 200 miles of high-risk landslide areas in South Dakota and crosses significant waterways, including the Missouri River, a major source of drinking water,” the IEN said. In addition, no analysis has been done on the potential for increased crime related to the influx of temporary workers, especially given that Native communities tend to fall prey to these forces more than others. There also has not been enough assessment of the effect the pipeline would have on cultural resources, nor has an inventory been taken of sacred sites that stand to be affected.

“The PUC’s decision amounts to a complete disregard for the inherent treaty rights of Oceti Sakowin peoples to address their concerns on how this dirty tar sands pipeline will affect our territories, water, air, and relationship to the sacredness of Mother Earth,” said Dallas Goldtooth, IEN anti-Keystone XL campaign organizer. “Treaties are the supreme law of the land, and not to be broken. This is yet another unjust action by South Dakota ignoring its obligations to recognize the Treaty rights of the Oceti Sakowin and to continue to silence the voices of those on the frontline of this issue.”