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Tribes in Nebraska have signed a treaty with First Nations in Canada to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, along with three other pipeline projects in Canada.
That brings the number to over 150 Tribes and First Nations opposed to Keystone, Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline through Minnesota (that begins in Canada), Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion through British Columbia and TransCanada’s Energy East.
“Along with our Indigenous allies all along the KXL route like the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) and all over Turtle Island (North America), we recognize the grave dangers in allowing this ‘Black Snake’ to enter our homelands”, said Chairman Larry Wright Jr. of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska in a press release.
“As the State of Nebraska stands poised to make a potentially life-altering decision about permitting this poisonous bitumen to be inflicted on its population, we stand poised to protect all life now and in the future.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already approved the Line 3 and Trans Mountain projects but First Nations have vowed to stop them.
The signing happened the same day that a hearing was held in Lincoln, Nebraska where opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline questioned its proposed pathway through Nebraska in hopes that state regulators will reject or reroute it, a decision that would create more delays for the nine-year-old project.
But pipeline builder TransCanada defended its proposal to the Nebraska Public Service Commission, arguing that the company’s “preferred route” makes the most sense and causes the least amount of disruption.
The proposed pipeline faced another day of scrutiny in a hearing before the Nebraska Public Service Commission, whose five members must decide whether the Keystone XL serves the public interest.
Approving the project would allow TransCanada to gain access to holdout landowners’ property using Nebraska’s eminent domain laws.
The 1897-km crude oil pipeline has faced relentless criticism from environmental groups, Native American tribes and a well-organized minority of Nebraska landowners who don’t want the project cutting through their property. Business groups and some unions support the Keystone XL, saying it will provide jobs and property tax revenue for local governments.
Business groups and some unions support the Keystone XL, saying it will provide jobs and property tax revenue for local governments.
Opponents argue that, if it wins approval, the Keystone XL should run along the same path as the original Keystone pipeline, a line through eastern Nebraska that was completed with little opposition in 2010.
TransCanada’s preferred route would carry crude oil roughly 442 km through Nebraska, whereas the original Keystone route only stretches 337 km, said Brian Jorde, an attorney for the landowners.
Company officials have said their preferred route is the most direct and least expensive way to transport oil from Alberta to an existing pipeline in Steele City, Nebraska.
Rerouting the pipeline would add millions of dollars to the project’s $8 billion price tag.
“A lot of work was put into the original main line with those landowners, accommodating their requests,” said Jon Schmidt, a Florida-based regulatory consultant hired by TransCanada.
“That would have to be reinitiated.”
Because it would travel along a nearly straight path, company officials said their preferred route would affect the least amount of land. TransCanada considered other routes, including one that would have run along Interstate 90 in South Dakota, but rejected them because they were longer, Meera Kothari, a company engineer.
The most direct path “lends itself to a diagonal route through Alberta, Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska,” Kothari said.
The company has also argued that the route through neighbouring South Dakota is already set, thus requiring it to cross the border at a point near Mills, Nebraska.
On Tuesday, a leading advocate for Nebraska landowners who oppose the pipeline argued that South Dakota’s route was not set in stone.
“We’ve been here for two days of hearings in which we’ve heard witness after witness say that we have to approve a route with a fixed starting point because the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission approved it, but all the South Dakota Public Utilities commission did was to grant a construction permit,” said Dave Domina, an Omaha attorney.
The Nebraska Public Service Commission must decide by Nov. 23 whether to approve or reject the project, based on evidence presented at hearings that could continue through Friday. The elected commission is comprised of four Republicans and one Democrat.
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