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City Desk

Keystone XL Pipeline called threat to MT communities


Big Sky Connection

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Eric Tegethoff

November 19, 2020
HELENA, Mont. -- Tribes and conservation groups are urging Montana to deny a key permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Under the Clean Water Act, the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) must certify the project won't violate water-quality standards before construction can start.

The pipeline route crosses more than 200 Montana waterways, including the Missouri River.

Angeline Cheek, an indigenous justice organizer from the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana from the Fort Peck Reservation, said the threat to tribal members, especially their drinking water, hasn't been considered.

"When is the government and the state going to realize what they've done to our people?" Cheek wondered. "And why jeopardize the people's health more and put us at risk?"

The TC Energy pipeline will carry about 830,000 barrels of Alberta tar sands per day through eastern Montana to pipelines in Illinois.

TC Energy said it has formed relationships with First Nations and indigenous people in the region and touts the pipeline's job-creation potential.

The Montana DEQ is taking public comment on issuing a water-crossing permit by Nov. 30.

Summer Nelson, director of the Sierra Club's Montana chapter, said at a public hearing this week, all but one of the comments came from opponents of the project.

She added tar sands are especially hard to clean up, and the company has a leaky history.

"It's not a matter of if but when it will leak," Nelson asserted. "And we simply can't afford the risk of the devastating impacts that would happen to Montana waters and Montana communities."

While the state-level process goes on, President-elect Joe Biden has promised to halt the Keystone XL project once he is in office. Cheek hopes Biden keeps his promise.

"A mile-and-a-half across the border, the pipe is already in the ground," Cheek observed. "But I'd like to see Joe Biden take those pipes out of the ground, and I actually want to be there to witness it."

At the federal level this week, the Fort Belknap Indian Community and Rosebud Sioux Tribe sued the Bureau of Land Management for its issuing of a permit and right-of-way for the pipeline.




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