Tom Poor Bear, Oglala Sioux vice president, at an XL pipeline protest in Denver.

Oglalas’ Keystone XL Pipeline Position Issued

Carol Berry
1/31/12

The Oglala Lakota Nation is grateful that President Obama denied a permit for the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, but is concerned that his decision will allow TransCanada to “simply re-file its application for a Presidential permit,” said Tom Poor Bear, tribal vice chairman, who issued the Nation’s official position on the pipeline decision.

“Several members of Congress are already discussing ways to legislate around the Presidential Permit to allow construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline to start as soon as possible—in spite of the president’s recent decision,” he said.

The Nation’s position contradicts pipeline supporters who include business interests, some labor unions and others who tout the project as a source of jobs, a boost for the economy, and a step toward energy independence.

Among project supporters are Oklahoma Republican Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, both of whom would endorse a bill to bypass Obama and allow Congress to approve the pipeline under Constitutional powers. A similar bill in the House would grant Congress permitting authority under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Another supporter of the pipeline is Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who shared her thoughts following Obama’s rejection, “Given the economic instability in the world and the growing threats to our nation’s energy security, I am disappointed that the president would deny or further delay a pipeline that would deliver vitally needed jobs and provide oil from our most reliable ally and biggest trading partner.”

Poor Bear called out to Obama during his speech to university students in Denver in October, urging him to disapprove a permit for the $7 billion, 1,711-mile pipeline that would transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast and then, in many instances, to Asia. The president said, “I hear you,” and told the delegation that “no decision has been made.”

Two months after the president’s response to Poor Bear and an Oglala Sioux delegation, legislation was passed requiring a decision on the permit within 60 days, so that “Congress prevented the State Department from performing due diligence and completing the additional reviews it felt were necessary to make an informed decision,” Poor Bear said in a statement January 24.

The Nation is concerned that the presidential permit denial may raise false hopes, because his decision was not based on pipeline-created environmental hazards, nor did it take into account “the threats the inevitable oil spills would pose to human health,” the “few thousand temporary jobs and few, if any, permanent jobs,” or that the oil will be shipped abroad after the tar sands crude oil is processed in the U.S.

“Although these facts clearly show that the pipeline would not be in the national interest, the president chose to base his position on a procedural issue” by allowing TransCanada to simply re-file its application later, and “this is most certainly not the end of the road for Keystone XL,” he said.

Poor Bear said the Nation is thankful for “the temporary reprieve granted to our sacred Mother Earth,” but he noted that Rodney Bordeaux, Rosebud Sioux tribal president, said recently that tribes must remain vigilant.

“In the past few months, we have witnessed desperate and unconventional measures being used by Congress to impose the will of the wealthy elite on the American people to try to ensure themselves a steady revenue stream of dirty oil money,” he said.

“The fight against this pipeline is far from over; we must become as one to protect our mother, the earth, and future generations,” he said, urging “on behalf of the Oglala Lakota” for “each and every one of our relatives from other tribes and nations to stand with us in unity and solidarity to protect what is sacred.”

The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council earlier passed a resolution opposing the pipeline because it would involve “accessing a 300-foot-wide corridor through unceded treaty lands of the Great Sioux Nation” as included in the Fort Laramie treaties of 1851 and 1868.

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