Saturday, August 8, 2020

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KXL Pipeline loses 2019 construction season

TC Energy, formally TransCanada, announced earlier this week that they have lost the 2019 construction season for the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. The corporation cited well-documented “ongoing legal challenges” as the reason for the major setback during a shareholders conference call.

Indeed, for years, the pipeline project has been embattled in legal opposition from many organizations, private citizens, and tribal nations, including the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. CRST has long maintained that the proposed pipeline would cross Great Sioux Nation territory without the tribe’s consent, and would cross the Moreau and Cheyenne Rivers, putting the tribe’s precious water sources at risk.

Other points of contention include increased rates of violence and crimes which correlate with the influx of transient workers who take up residence at oil man camps. Alarming statistics of missing and murdered indigenous women and the epidemic rates of violence against native women are important reasons to oppose man camps and oil pipelines, especially those within treaty territories and within close proximity of the reservation boundaries, said CRST Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator Remi Bald Eagle.

Last November, Montana U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris issued an injunction prohibiting construction and pre-construction activities of the pipeline. Morris faulted the State Department for not doing a sufficient environmental impact review in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, a 1970 law meant to ensure that federal agencies consider environmental impacts of their action. According to Morris, the agency “simply disregarded” information and factors such as climate change, oil spill risks, and oil prices.

Morris also ruled that the Trump administration had failed to provide justification for reversing former President Obama’s 2015 denial of the pipeline permit when Trump signed executive actions in 2017, greenlighting the project.

The following month, TC Energy appealed the ruling, and on March 15, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Morris’ ruling, leaving the injunction in place, blocking construction and some pre-construction activities.

Two weeks later on March 29, in a direct response to the federal ruling, Trump issued a presidential permit authorizing construction of the pipeline. It was a move that legal analysts said was aimed at limiting environmental reviews while sidestepping legal scrutiny under NEPA laws, and limited States’ ability to review, reject, or authorize proposed projects such as oil pipelines under the Clean Water Act.

Earlier in March, in an affidavit, TC Energy wrote that construction delays beyond March 15 would push the KXL completion date back an entire year- they were right. Embattled in legal woes and having all but stalled, the corporation’s announcement that it had lost the 2019 construction season quickly spread across social media and news outlets.

In a statement, Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) Frontline Community Organization and CRST tribal member Joye Braun said, “We are thrilled that TC Energy, formerly TransCanada has been stalled once again. Their shareholders decided the right course to withhold moving forward during this year’s construction period. For our homelands across the Oceti Sakowin or Great Sioux Nation and indeed the many tribal lands along the proposed KXL route, this is great news. We will continue to raise awareness of the numerous problems this project presents; the threat to sacred sites, to our waters, homelands, and the many people along the route. We will defeat this zombie pipeline as we have done in the past. Despite threats of pre-construction, our spirit is strong and we stand ready to continue fighting for the next Seven Generations.”

According to an IEN press release, “TC Energy has stated that although they will not be doing construction in 2019, they will be pursuing pre-construction activities along the route,” which may include reported pipe yards near Bridger and Marcus, and a man camp near Opal. 

As of press time, it is unknown what preconstruction activities will continue within South Dakota. A visit to the TC Energy website resulted in outdated information from 2018, while phone calls to their Media Enquiries and Indigenous Relations numbers only yielded busy dial tones.