Jul 26, 2015 - TransCanada’s Pipe Dream- Our Worst Nightmare, By Linda Black Elk

Documents have surfaced showing a frightening level of ruthlessness and manipulation by the Transcanada Corporation – the builders of the Keystone XL pipeline. It is clear that Transcanada is attempting to turn South Dakota’s Natives against each other – they will stop at nothing to divide and weaken the people in order to render us completely subservient to their proposed environmental destruction. One of their more amusing tactics includes their attempts to incite racism by making our non-Native neighbors believe that they should be afraid of the savage and violent Natives who oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. Protests, meetings, and any opposition to the pipeline is a direct risk to the number one goal of the Transcanada Corporation and its cronies, which is to make as much money as possible without regard to the people, air, water, and soil of South Dakota and beyond. Transcanada has also attempted to exploit the most economically disadvantaged communities in South Dakota by offering money in exchange for land in which to house their man camps – bringing hardcore substance abuse and sexual exploitation to already vulnerable communities.

In preparations for the upcoming “South Dakota Keystone XL pipeline certification hearing,” which will be held on July 27-30, 2015 in Pierre, SD, tribes and grassroots people all over the State of South Dakota have been preparing to testify and protest the pipeline, which will have severe and long term detrimental effects of the lives of American Indians across the state. In dealings with the Standing Rock Nation, Sioux Falls lawyers, who are defending the Transcanada Corporation , have forcefully and disrespectfully demanded every single document pertaining to the Keystone XL hearings, along with the “identity of all lay and expert witnesses,” and “all documents that you intend to introduce at the hearing.” The Standing Rock Nation, in good faith, sent everything that was requested. Transcanada’s lawyers, however, seem determined to insult the Lakota people, so when they were sent the same request for documents, almost all interrogatories were completely ignored. Let me be clear: the Standing Rock Nation has handed their entire case over to Transcanada’s lawyers, but Transcanada and their legal team have refused to reciprocate. Here are a few worrisome examples:

  • What is the relationship between the applicant and TransCanada Northern Border, Inc.? And what is the relationship between ConocoPhillips and TransCanada?

    • RESPONSE: “This request is not relevant and not likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”

  • Provide documents that demonstrate compliance by TransCanada with the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 in the construction and maintenance of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

    • RESPONSE: “This request…seeks information that is confidential and proprietary. Public disclosure of the emergency response plan couldcommercially disadvantage Keystone.” (italics added for emphasis)

  • Provide an Integrity Management Plan (a plan to prevent accidents and leaks) and all other documents that demonstrate compliance with the Pipeline safety Act in the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

    • RESPONSE: “This request…seeks information that is confidential and proprietary. See Amended Final Order, HP 09-001, Condition ¶36. Public disclosure of the emergency response plan would commercially disadvantage Keystone.” (italics added for emphasis)

  • Provide all documents prepared or obtained that demonstrate compliance with the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Department of state’s environmental review of the pipeline, the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Ac t of 1990 in the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

    • RESPONSE: “This request is vague, unclear, overly broad, unduly burdensome, and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”

Unduly burdensome? Really Transcanada? What are you trying to hide by claiming that your vast resources cannot comply with simple requests for understanding the construction, operation and maintenance of this pipeline? Where is the transparency with the public?

The facts are that the construction of this pipeline will destroy a massive swath of land 320 miles long and 150 feet wide in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. That amounts to thousands of acres of short and tallgrass prairie, wooded riparian habitat, vast grazing lands, and precious farming lands. In South Dakota, the pipeline will use horizontal direction drilling to cross the Little Missouri River, the Cheyenne River, Bridger Creek, the Bad River, and the White River. It is unclear what crossing methods will be used for all other water bodies because, as TransCanada’s lawyers say, this “will be determined at the time of construction.”

When asked about the impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline on traditional hunting, gathering, fishing, and other culturally relevant activities, the corporation dismissed concerns by saying that, since the pipeline doesn’t cross CURRENT reservation lands, it won’t impact any cultural activities. Because …somehow…Transcanada assumes that we never leave the reservation or collect plants/animals on other traditional lands? The fact is, this pipeline will cut through and adjacent to precious mixed grass prairie that holds vitally important plant foods and medicines. Many families have permission from private landowners to collect along this very route. Chemicals that leach off of the outside of the pipeline can be taken up by various plants species, contaminating them and rendering them useless as food or medicine. Along with the thousands of acres of prairie plants lost, the Keystone XL pipeline will also destroy acres of riparian habitat as it crosses over sacred waterways such as Little Missouri River, the Cheyenne River, Bridger Creek, the Bad River, and the White River and the North Fork of the Grand River. The Lakota and other tribes of the Plains have already lost hundreds of thousands of acres of riparian habitat to the Pick Sloan project, and now these last vestiges of cottonwood forest, willow stands, and sweetgrass beds will be destroyed by the pipeline both in situ and downstream.

We must keep striving to get the truth about KXL out to the people. I am not putting this information out there exclusively for my fellow Natives, but also for our non-Native relatives. We must unify and realize that racism, anger, and division is exactly what Transcanada wants, and as the attached documents prove, division is what they have been fighting for. I say to all of you: Transcanada, its subsidiaries, and the oil industry do not care about us. They do not care about our children’s health. They do not care about our future or about environmental health. They do not care about foreign oil dependency.

Money. Money is what they care about.

In a few days, Transcanada will go in front of the Public Utilities Commission to seek recertification to build the Keystone XL pipeline. (They have successfully suppressed my testimony concerning culturally important plants, as well as the testimony of other concerned officials and tribal representatives, and that is another reason that I am writing this article.) The SD PUC approved the original KXL application in 2010, but because pipeline construction did not begin within four years, Transcanada must certify to the PUC that the Keystone XL pipeline still meets the conditions upon which the permit was originally issued. But the conditions have, indeed, changed. Transcanada’s new application includes thirty – yes – thirty changes to the original. This basically constitutes an entirely new pipeline and WE MUST DEMAND that Transcanada restart the entire permit process.

Stand up and fight for your children, their land, and their future. How will you look your children and grandchildren in the eye a decade from now, when their traditional medicines and foods (and their air and water) are poisoned by leaching of heavy metals and oil spills?

Last Real Indians