Yankton Sioux Lead Fight Against TransCanada and Keystone XL in South Dakota


The Yankton Sioux, along with the Cheyenne River, Rosebud and Standing Rock tribes, are joining forces against TransCanada on January 6 as they continue to forestall attempts to run the Keystone XL pipeline through their lands in South Dakota.

“Yankton has been fighting KXL pipeline since 2008 and will continue to do so until KXL goes away,” the tribe said in a release on December 31.

Beyond that, they will argue at a hearing before the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, “so much has changed from the findings of fact and conclusions of law and fifty original conditions that were to be met by TransCanada, that it now appears to be a new pipeline.”

In this latest attempt to stop the pipeline, the Yankton Sioux Tribe has requested that TransCanada’s application to certify its existing construction permit be dismissed. This forces the Public Utilities Commission to make a decision, the Aberdeen News reported. Under state law, any project that has not been started within four years of its original permit being granted must seek certification from the commission, the Aberdeen News explained. That works to demonstrate that the project “will continue to meet conditions set in the permit,” the newspaper said.

The Yankton Sioux Tribe argues that the conditions in the original permit have changed enough to get it tossed out. Among the differences between the permit’s initial granting in 2010 and the current version is that the pipeline, originally slated to carry crude from the Alberta oil sands, has been expanded to include oil from the Bakken formation under western North Dakota, the Black Hills Pioneer reported on December 10.

The four tribes are among 41 intervenors that filed motions against development of Keystone XL at SD Public Utility Commission hearings last fall, the Yankton Sioux media statement said. Nonprofit organizations, individual citizens and landowners from South Dakota and Nebraska round out the intervenor list. Many of those belong to the group NOKXL Dakota, a coalition of tribes, landowners and nonprofit groups. Dakota Rural Action, intervenor when the SD Public Utility Commission first certified the pipeline in 2010, is again on the list, as well as Bold Nebraska, Nebraska landowners, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, the Sierra Club, 350.org, the South Dakota Wildlife Federation and the Rosebud Public Utility Commission, the statement said.

After the hearing on Tuesday January 6, NOKXL will host a prayer circle in South Dakota’s Capitol Rotunda “to celebrate unity, solidarity, continued opposition and victory of unification which will not concede lands to a foreign entity or compromise the climate for generations to come,” the Yankton Sioux statement said.

TransCanada, contending that the Yankton Sioux have not demonstrated changes specific enough to warrant a dismissal, oppose the move, the Aberdeen News said, quoting the company’s legal brief. The company would have to start all over again if the Public Utilities Commission were to grant the tribes’ request. If the commission does not dismiss the permit, the permit process will move forward, with an evidentiary hearing on the certification scheduled for May 5 through 8, the newspaper said. January 6 is also the first deadline for each side to begin submitting evidence for a possible hearing, the Black Hills Pioneer noted.

Keystone XL has been contentious all along its route from the Alberta oil sands of Canada to the U.S. coast on the Gulf of Mexico. The Senate Committee on Energy and Resources will meet on January 8 to study a bill that would circumvent President Barack Obama and the State Department to force approval of the $8 billion, 1,700-mile-long pipeline.

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