Message to President Obama: Say NO to KXL – YES, You Can!

Cowboy & Indian Alliance on Saturday, April 26, 2014. PHOTO Courtesy: Frank Waln

Cowboy & Indian Alliance on Saturday, April 26, 2014. PHOTO Courtesy: Frank Waln


Editor’s Note: This Commentary first appeared in Native News Online last April 27, 2014. Given the course of action of the new Congress fast-track a Keystone XL pipeline bill this week, Native News Online is republishing it as it was presented last April. It is encouraging President Obama has vowed to veto the bill when it hits his desk.

With President Obama traveling in Asian countries in the Pacific this weekend, I hope the message to his administration to say no to the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline does not get lost as it appeared to by the national press.

Thousands of Americans were on the National Mall to bring the say no to KXL to the president. Included the “Reject and Protect” rally in this large body was the Cowboy and Indian Alliance. This weekend many tribal leaders, including Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer, were in Washington to show their support of the Cowboy and Indian Alliance’s message to President Obama to say no to KXL.

With the exception of a segment on MSNBC, there was next to no national media coverage.

Two months before Barak Obama’s historic election, TransCanada KXL Pipeline, LP, filed an application for a Presidential Permit with the US State Department to build and operate the Keystone XL Project, because it crosses an international border into the United States. The application was waiting for President Obama, who alone can decide without Congressional approval.

The KXL Project is a 1700-mile long crude oil pipeline that would transport between 700,000 to 900,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The 1700-mile-long pipeline will extend from Alberta, Canada and pass through the states of Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

The crude oil is also known as tar-sand oil. What are the tar sands? The tar sands or bitumen is mixture of sand, clay and heavy crude oil. The process to rid the oil of the sand is an environmental nightmare.

Two methods can be used to separate oil from sand: surface mining method or situ method.

The surface mining method has been the most widely used so far. The surface mining method requires cutting of forests to reach the tar sands near the surface. Then the bitumen is stripped and transported using heavy hauler trucks which are three stories high to industrial cookers where steam and chemical separate the heavy crude from the bitumen.

The process to get one barrel of oil using the surface mining method requires two to four barrels of freshwater and produces 1.5 barrels of toxic waste.

Using the situ method to reach oil deeper in the ground requires vast amounts of natural gas and energy for extraction. The carbon footprint in situ technology is three times that of surface mining. This process takes from one-half to five barrels of water and produces a one-half barrels of toxic waste.

Environmentalists argue both processes produce disastrous results on the climate.

Opposition to KXL among American Indians is strong. PHOTO Courtesy: Frank Waln

Opposition to KXL among American Indians is strong. PHOTO Courtesy: Frank Waln

American Indian tribes and Canadian First Nations have been very vocal of their opposition to the proposed pipeline, as well. And for good reason.

Once the tar sands oil is separated it can be transported via the proposed KXL pipeline. There are significant worries about spills that occur, as with the major spill from a ruptured pipeline that snakes it way through Michigan. Almost four years ago, some 819,000 gallons of oil spilled entered a creek and made its way into the Kalamazoo River, near the site of the Firekeepers Casino, owned by the Nottawaseppi Huron Potawatomi Tribe. The spill impacted 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River system.

In July 2011 Exxon Mobil had an oil spill of 42,000 gallons near the Apsáalooke (Crow) Nation territory in south-central Montana, contaminating 240 miles of the Yellowstone River.

The proposed pipeline coming down through the Plains states has caused great concern, particularly among the Oglala in South Dakota. TransCanada’s proposed pipeline route is right though the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations. It will cross the Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System in two places.

“The Keystone XL pipeline . . . would threaten, among other things, water aquifers, water ways, cultural sites, agricultural lands, animal life, public drinking water sources and other resources vital to the peoples of the region in which the pipeline is proposed to be constructed,” reads in part a resolution passed by the National Congress of American Indians.

Opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline is really about environmental justice. Far too often American Indians, First Nations people and Alaska Natives have been subjected to contaminants produced by large corporations that destroy tribal lands and tribal lives.

The Native News Online message to President Obama is you ran for president on a platform that included these words: “At the dawn of the 21st century, the country that faced down the tyranny of fascism and communism is now called to challenge the tyranny of oil.” It is your defining moment to demonstrate to all Americans, you will stand up for environmental justice.

Mr. President: Say NO to KXL – YES you can!

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