Larry Wright, Ponca Tribe tribal chairman
Published March 25, 2017
NIOBRARA, NEBRASKA – The Trump administration on Friday approved the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The approval by the U.S. State Department grants TransCanada, a Canadian company, to construct the 1,700 pipeline. The approval overturns the Obama administration’s denial to grant a permit 16 months ago.
Despite Friday’s approval, there is not legal route for the pipeline to go through the state of Nebraska.
Many American Indian tribes oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.
“The Ponca Tribe has been opposed and remains opposed to this pipeline,” said Ponca Tribe of Nebraska’s Chairman Larry Wright. “The pipeline may go over land that was historically Ponca land. We have the right to protect cultural and sacred sites. There has been almost no consultation with our tribe. We have to make sure we are protecting the land and water.”
After yesterday’s announcement by the Trump administration, the Ponca Tribe released the following statement:
On March 22, 2017, the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska (“Tribe”) filed a petition to intervene on its own behalf in TransCanada’s proceedings before the Nebraska Public Service Commission. TransCanada is seeking approval of a route of the Keystone XL Pipeline through Nebraska.
PHOTO Courtesy: Frank Waln
The Tribe has a substantial interest in the routing of the Keystone XL Pipeline. As a government and federally recognized Indian nation, the Tribe retains inherent sovereignty over both its members and its territory. When Congress restored the United States’ relationship with the Tribe, it designated fifteen (15) counties in Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa as the geographic area encompassing the territory of the Tribe where the Tribe and its members are deemed to be on or near a reservation. All proposed routes of the pipeline would cross through the Tribe’s congressionally-designated territory and jurisdictional area. TransCanada’s proposed Preferred Route and its proposed Sandhills Alternative Route would each cross through the Tribe’s territory and jurisdictional area defined by Boyd and Holt counties in Nebraska. TransCanada’s proposed Keystone Mainline Alternative Route would cross through the Tribe’s territory and jurisdictional area defined by Madison, Stanton, and Platte counties in Nebraska. At the same time, the proposed routes would all pass through the Tribe’s traditional and aboriginal territory.
The proceedings before the Public Service Commission seek to determine whether the proposed routes of the Keystone XL Pipeline would serve the public interest, including intrusion upon the natural resources of the State of Nebraska and the pipeline’s economic and social impacts. The Tribe seeks to protect its interests in its recognized sovereignty in its congressionally designated Service Areas where the proposed routes of the pipeline will cross. The Tribe also desires to protect its historic, cultural, sacred and archaeological sites and resources in both its federally recognized territory as well as its traditional and aboriginal territory.
The Tribe has serious concerns about the safety and environmental impacts of the pipeline. While the Public Service Commission is prohibited by federal law from considering safety issues related to the pipeline, including the risk of spills, 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. It is of utmost importance that such resources receive proper protection and preservation and that they are appropriately handled if found in any area where the pipeline will be constructed or on any lands used for construction. This includes ensuring close monitoring by appropriate Tribal officials and Tribal members with significant knowledge of the Tribe’s history, culture, and tradition as well as protocols for handling any discoveries. At the same time, since the pipeline crosses the Tribe’s congressionally designated Service Areas, the pipeline has the potential to impact the economic and social interests of the Tribe as well as the development of the Tribe’s territory for itself, its members, and all Nebraskans.