The fight against the now-revived TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline may
be focused in the courtroom with dozens of landowners working to protect
themselves from eminent domain claims, but others are jumping into the
fray and taking inspiration from the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
A number of Native American tribes are planning on setting up camps all
along the proposed construction route, including the Ponca Tribe whose
territory lies in the proposed path.
“The Tribe has serious concerns about the safety and environmental
impacts of the pipeline,” the Ponca Tribe said in a statement soon
after the pipeline’s approval. “Both the Tribe’s present
federally recognized territory and its traditional and aboriginal territory
contain historic, cultural, sacred and archaeological sites and resources.
The construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline may disturb
those sites, and may reveal and damage important Tribal cultural patrimony.”
Their efforts will work in conjunction with those taken by landowners in
the courtroom, where farmers are ready to restart the process that successfully
halted the construction when it was first introduced. Even with the support
of the current president, the legal hurdles may be too large for the foreign
company to overcome.
“When Trump had his big moment on TV, he had no clue that there are
still proceedings in Nebraska that had to occur,” said Domina Law
Group attorney Brian Jorde. “He has no power on the state law issues.
They’re kind of clueless on a national level.”
Jorde has worked with landowners to fight back against the pipeline for
more than eight years, and continues to represent them in this second
fight. These people are focused on more than just their own property,
they’re also worried about the damage it could have on the environment.
“Basically [the Nebraska Sandhills are] a sponge, and that sponge is the Ogalalla Aquifer… Our well
here at the farm that we drink water out of is 70 feet deep. Irrigation
wells [for the Ogalalla Aquifer] are 120 feet deep. The pipeline would
be 50 feet deep,” said retired teacher and farmer Art Tanderup.
Tanderup’s farm is one of the many that lies in the path of the proposed
pipeline, and he was one of the plaintiffs involved in the first round
of eminent domain lawsuits against TransCanada. He is especially worried
like the one that spilled approximately 16,800 gallons of oil near Freeman, South Dakota, because:
“We would not be able to have drinking water here or water for farming.
I do no-till farming, which builds up topsoil over time. I have been doing
that for 13 years. A leak would ruin everything we’ve gained in
those 13 years.”
Even if the pipeline remains intact, Tanderup and other farmers whose land
is at risk of being seized may need to worry about other issues because
of a chemical mixture that helps tar sands oil to flow through the pipeline.
The friction between those two substances can generate a significant amount
of heat, which could be a serious issue and create a growing insect population
that could eat their crops during the warmer months.
“In the wintertime that ground won’t freeze, and will create
a haven for insects and other critters that will be able to multiply.”
The potential damage from the proposed pipeline is far too severe to ignore,
and all parties involved are committed to fighting back to protect themselves
and their neighbors in court and on the ground for as long as it takes
to secure another victory.
“They’re not doing us any favors by coming through Nebraska,”
said Jorde. “We are physically and geographically in the way between
Alberta and Houston.”