Ponca Tribe Vows to Fight the Keystone XL Pipeline

Ponca Tribe Vows to Fight the Keystone XL Pipeline

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 about leaks, 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.”

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