November 11, 2011

Keystone XL pipeline halted

I've posted a few items about the Alberta oilsands and the Keystone XL pipeline meant to transport the oil. Now the controversial pipeline has come grinding to a halt.

Indians Score a Win With Pipeline Postponement

By Rob CapricciosoIn a major victory for American Indian activists, the Obama administration has decided to postpone a decision on whether to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to flow from Canada until after the 2012 presidential election.

Administration officials said that the extra time is needed to allow for study for a new route for the pipeline. Indians, environmentalists, and others have been especially concerned that it would cross Indian country lands and likely cause pollution to the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska.

The State Department said in a statement released the afternoon of Nov. 10 that the Obama administration will reassess the proposed route through Nebraska. “Given the concentration of concerns regarding the environmental sensitivities of the current proposed route through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska, the Department had determined it needs to undertake an in-depth assessment of potential alternative routes in Nebraska,” the statement said.

“Because this permit decision could affect the health and safety of the American people as well as the environment, and because a number of concerns have been raised through a public process, we should take the time to ensure that all questions are properly addressed and all the potential impacts are properly understood,” President Barack Obama said in his own statement.
Indians Celebrate Pipeline Postponement, Express Caution

By Rob CapricciosoIndian Country Today Media Network is highlighting a few of the statements from key indigenous organizers below. We will add to it throughout the day as reactions come in.

“The position taken by the Obama administration today to delay the permit for the Trans Canada Keystone XL pipeline in order to do a new environmental review is the right decision—an ethical decision. We applaud President Obama and the State Department for listening to the voices of youth, elders, faith-based groups, labor, students, environmental organizations, Native Nations, and those living along the proposed pipeline, who are standing united against dirty oil from the tar sands. This is the beginning of a new era in which people are demanding that their rights be recognized. The need to protect our sources of clean water, to fight for stabilizing climate change, and to say “No” to corporate polluters setting the agenda in Washington is now. We must not let up. The struggle for environmental and economic justice—for energy and climate justice—and the fight for Native Treaty Rights must continue. Mother Earth has achieved victory today.”

–Tom B.K. Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network

“President Obama, in my opinion, has released a statement that is very disappointing. I believe he is playing politics now. A statement to DENY the TransCanada dirty oil pipeline would have demonstrated that he is walking his talk. However, to postpone a decision until after the election next year does put a huge economic price tag on the project that TransCanada may not be willing to pay, thus scuttling their plan, causing them reroute directly out of Canada and staying out of North America. That action by the corporation will just put their weapon of mass destruction into the First Nations communities it must run thru to get to the west coast of Canada. Wherever they plan to run this pipeline, there will be a fight, either here or in Canada. We need to shut down the tarsands oil mine. Then there will no need for a pipeline anywhere.”

–Lakota activist Debra White Plume in a statement on Facebook
Keystone Pipeline May Not 'Survive' U.S. Delay, Flaherty Says

By Andrew Mayeda and Greg QuinnThe U.S. State Department's decision to delay its review of TransCanada Corp.'s $7-billion Keystone XL pipeline until after next year's presidential election may doom the project and accelerate Canada's efforts to ship crude to Asia, Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said.

"The decision to delay it that long is actually quite a crucial decision. I'm not sure this project would survive that kind of delay," Flaherty said yesterday in an interview at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu. "It may mean that we may have to move quickly to ensure that we can export our oil to Asia through British Columbia."

The deferral on Keystone XL is a blow to the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who called U.S. approval of the pipeline a "no brainer." Canadian officials underestimated the strength of resistance to the project by Nebraska farmers and environmentalists, political and foreign-policy experts said.

The State Department said yesterday it will study an alternative route to avoid environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska. Nebraskan farmers, officials in the state and some members of Congress argue the proposed route across the Sandhills area risks contaminating the Ogallala aquifer that supplies water to 1.5 million people.
Comment:  This isn't exactly a Native or a pop-culture issue, which is why I haven't reported on it more. But Indians have been among the most vocal opponents of the Alberta oilsands because the environmental destruction affects their land. And the oilsands protests led to the pipeline protests, where Indians also were prominent. So it's fair to say Indians played a significant role in getting the pipeline postponed and probably shut down.

From relatively minor issues like Urban Outfitters' "Navajo" products and Bedlam's "PocaHotAss" party to Occupy Wall Street and the Keystone XL pipeline, protests continue to have an effect on corporate and government policies. Why do activists keep protesting? Because protests work.

For more on the subject, see Keystone XL Pipeline Protests to Continue and Report Backs Controversial Oil Pipeline.

Below:  "Protesters gathered outside the White House on November 6." (Rob Capriccioso)

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