WIRT Meetings, Comments on Keystone XL Pipeline


NOVEMBER & DECEMBER WIRT MEETINGS

Volunteer, grassroots, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) organizers invite and appreciate your assistance in arranging upcoming presentations, training workshops, demonstrations, outreach, and #No2ndBridge litigation.  We urge you to participate in November and December 2019, potluck, WIRT gatherings, enjoy climate action documentaries, talk about tactics and strategies, and offer your unique advice and assistance, as we together relentlessly confront the fossil fuel causes of climate change, through direct resistance and frontline solutions.  The WIRT climate activist collective welcomes opportunities to talk with you about critical issues, and to share images, dispatches, and actions with the regional, environmental and indigenous community, while we continue our opposition and vigil on the north Idaho, fossil fuels pipeline-on-rails, and #No2ndBridge frontline.

Join activity-planning conversations on the first and third Thursdays (now instead of Wednesdays) of every month, starting at 6 pm (not the usual 7 pm) on Thursday, November 21 and December 19, at the Gardenia Center, 400 Church Street in Sandpoint, and on Thursday, December 5, at The Attic, up the back stairs of 314 East Second Street in Moscow [1].  Meanwhile, please check WIRT website and especially facebook pages for posts and pictures, and listen to WIRT’s weekly, Climate Justice Forum radio program, for updates about ongoing, recent, and emerging, Northwest and continent-wide, fossil fuel infrastructure invasions and protests, and share this information among your associates and contacts.

COMMENT ON KEYSTONE XL BY NOVEMBER 18

As activists in Montana, the Great Plains, and around the U.S. continue resistance in the courts and on the land, fossil fuel billionaires and their federal government cronies push for construction of the Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline.  On October 4, 2019, the U.S. Department of State released the project’s new, draft, supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) [2].  Instead of an open, public hearing, the agency held a restrictive, October 29 meeting that only accepted comments via computers or stenographers in isolated rooms, at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center in Montana [3].  A few hundred people attended, and concerned groups hosted a cold rally in a fenced-off “free speech zone” outside the center, with speakers from the Fort Berthold and Fort Peck reservations and BOLD Nebraska, to provide opportunities to hear from communities impacted by the controversial project that threatens water quality, land rights, and climate health across the region.  On the same day as the nation’s only public meeting on the draft SEIS, someone discovered that the previously built Keystone pipeline leaked about 383,000 gallons of tar sands oil in northeastern North Dakota [4].  How many other pipeline spills have gone undetected and unreported, especially in rural and remote locations?

The final SEIS could guide future permitting decisions by the Bureau of Land Management and especially the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for a Clean Water Act section 408 permit, required for the KXL crossing of the Missouri River, located dangerously underneath the Fort Peck Dam spillway, subjecting the buried pipeline to immense volumes and velocities of water discharge and its scour erosion of the riverbed, which could expose it and cause leaks [5-7].  Drinking and agricultural water intake facilities for the 30,000 people of the Fort Peck reservation and northeastern Montana communities lie immediately downstream.  But the State Department’s draft SEIS continues to downplay these and other risks and disruptions to healthy and stable, regional watersheds and global climate.

Please protect the Earth’s precious water and air from the Keystone XL pipeline, by requesting a 90-day, public comment period extension and additional public hearings on this proposal with such immense significance and scope, and by sending your written comments on the draft SEIS to the State Department by 9 pm PST on Monday, November 18.  Pipeline industry groups, unions, and companies have apparently strongly recommended that their members and employees submit pro-pipeline comments.  So raise your voice for the Earth, through this potentially last opportunity to oppose KXL through “the system.”  Montana colleagues Northern Plains Resource Council and 350 Montana have identified problems with this current analysis that does not properly evaluate KXL risks to rivers and climate.  They offer detailed suggestions and guides to help inform your comments [5-7] that we hope you post through the Regulations.gov federal website [2].  Thanks!

MONTANA KXL LAWSUITS

In March 2017, Calgary-based oil and gas developer TransCanada (now TC Energy) had not yet made a final investment decision on the controversial, 1180-mile, $8 billion, Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska.  Nonetheless, U.S. President Trump reversed former President Obama’s 2015 refusal to issue a federal permit for the pipeline desperately needed by Canadian oil producers.  Indigenous Environmental Network, North Coast Rivers Alliance, Northern Plains Resource Council, and other environmental group plaintiffs immediately filed cases in a Great Falls, Montana, federal court, and have successfully challenged the U.S. State Department’s outdated, inadequate, environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed KXL, rejecting EIS flaws, exclusion of climate, water, and other threats, preparers’ conflicts of interest, and the Canada-U.S. cross-border permit [8, 9].

“President Trump is breaking established environmental laws and treaties, in his efforts to force through the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring carbon-intensive, toxic, and corrosive crude oil from the Canadian tar sands, but we are filing suit to fight back,” Tom Goldtooth, executive director of Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a statement.  “For too long, the U.S. government has pushed around indigenous peoples and undervalued our inherent rights, sovereignty, culture, and our responsibilities as guardians of Mother Earth and all life, while fueling catastrophic, extreme weather and climate change with addiction to fossil fuels” [9].

During 2017, Keystone XL owner TransCanada lobbied state and Native officials in Montana, the first U.S. state that the tar sands pipeline would cross [10].  Beyond “a resolution in support of building Keystone XL, TransCanada also lobbied for a provision that would exempt it from civil immunity from damages that could occur, if something happens during the construction phase of the pipeline.  Further, it lobbied against a provision that would have strengthened the Montana Environmental Policy Act, to include a definition of environmental damages extending beyond state lines, important given that KXL is a multi-state, multi-national, pipeline proposal that has been described as a ‘carbon bomb.’  …TransCanada wined and dined the Montana American Indian Caucus, paying $800 for that.  It’s unclear what was discussed (no one would respond for comment on either side), but what’s clear is that Keystone XL, if built, would cross near Native American land and key, Missouri River, drinking water sources.”

Over several years and among other, ongoing KXL lawsuits, the Fort Peck Reservation and Great Falls hosted Keystone XL court hearings, tribal, anti-pipeline walks and rallies, and protests of President Trump’s visit and pipeline and administrative policies threatening eastern Montana communities, waters, and lands [11, 12].  In spring 2018 on the reservation, an Anadarko Minerals well, shut-in since late December 2017, leaked an estimated 600 barrels of oil and 90,000 barrels of production brine into and around a tribal livestock pond, and a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway train hit and killed a man near Wolf Point, where Bakken oil bomb trains routinely pass [13, 14].  The U.S. State Department sent an April 10 letter to the resident Assiniboine and Sioux tribes at Fort Peck, notifying them that TransCanada intended to begin clearing vegetation and build construction camps and pipe yards during fall 2018, in preparation for Keystone XL pipeline construction in 2019 [15].  The letter also alerted the tribes to government consultation with them on new survey work in spring and summer 2018, forced by appealed, Nebraska approval of a route other than TransCanada’s preferred plan.  All of these incidences have further reinforced the adamant opposition of tribal members and officials, to the detrimental effects of KXL on environmental and water quality in and near the reservation.

In November and December 2018 and March 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls issued initial and additional rulings favoring plaintiff litigation to halt work on Keystone XL, overturning the Trump administration’s prior pipeline approval and granting a permanent injunction against its construction [16-22].  Judge Morris’s November decision did not permanently block Keystone XL development, but required the U.S. State Department to conduct a more thorough review of potential, adverse impacts related to climate change, cultural resources, and endangered species — the SEIS.  But in December, according to Cheyenne River tribal activist Joye Braun, “Judge Morris specifically rejected TransCanada’s request to engage in the following construction activities: 1) preparation of pipe storage and contractor yards, 2) transportation, receipt, and off-loading of pipe at storage yards, 3) preparation of sites for worker camps, and 4) mowing and patrolling areas of the pipeline right-of-way, to discourage migratory bird nesting.  Judge Morris only allowed TransCanada to conduct limited cultural, biological, civil, and other surveys that do not harm the environment, and to maintain security at existing TransCanada sites.”

To speed KXL construction and undermine the Montana decision, President Trump revoked the federal permit in question, and replaced it with an unusual presidential permit (a mere memo) on March 29, 2019, which opponents filed to block in April, with a still active, federal court case [23, 24].  On June 6, 2019, in San Francisco, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a legal challenge of the defunct, U.S. State Department pipeline permit, and vacated the November 2018 ruling by Judge Morris, which blocked construction until the government completed review of the pipeline’s environmental impacts, through the draft SEIS.  Although TC Energy began initial, pre-construction work in eastern Montana during fall 2018, it recently informed investors that it was too late in the 2019 season for further activity, to start to build the pipeline from Alberta, through Montana and South Dakota, to Nebraska.

Involved litigants and attorneys expect another Great Falls federal court decision in November 2019, when Judge Morris may rule on a plaintiff motion tossing President Trump’s March 2019, executive order, if it exceeds his authority.  An outcome siding with the president could resume work on the Keystone XL pipeline as early as April 2019, after TC Energy obtains any remaining permits and land use authorizations [25].

SUPPORT WIRT!

Please consider contributing physically as a volunteer and/or fiscally as a funding supporter of WIRT campaigns confronting the fossil fuel sources of climate change, via mail to our Sandpoint and Moscow addresses, or online through our website Donate to WIRT button [26].  Thanks!

[1] PRDC, WIRT, and Sandpoint Council Meetings, #No2ndBridge Updates, Regional Railroad Snafus, November 5, 2019 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[2] Notice of Availability of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Keystone XL Pipeline; Public Meeting Announcement, October 4, 2019 U.S. Department of State

[3] Media Advisory: Billings Rally to Protect Water and Climate from KXL Pipeline Scheduled before Restrictive State Department Meeting, October 25, 2019 Northern Plains Resource Council

[4] ‘It Happens Over and Over and Over and Over’: Keystone Pipeline Leaks (at Least) 383,000 Gallons of Crude Oil in North Dakota, October 31, 2019 Common Dreams

[5] Protect our Water and Climate from the KXL Pipeline, Northern Plains Resource Council

[6] Comment on KXL Pipeline by 11/18! October 25, 2019 350 Montana

[7] How to Comment on the SEIS for the Keystone XL Pipeline, October 2019 350 Montana

[8] Press Release: Northern Plains Lead Plaintiff in Lawsuit against Keystone XL Presidential Permit, March 30, 2017 Northern Plains Resource Council

[9] Keystone XL: Environmental and Native Groups Sue to Halt Pipeline, March 30, 2017 Inside Climate News

[10] Montana Eased Regulations for Keystone XL After Lobbying by TransCanada, July 31, 2017 DeSmogBlog article author note

[11] Crowd Gathers in Great Falls to Protest Trump Rally for Rosendale, July 5, 2018 Helena Independent Record

[12] ‘Treating Protest as Terrorism’: U.S. Plans Crackdown on Keystone XL Activists, September 20, 2018 Guardian

[13] Large Oil Spill Reported on Montana Reservation, Contaminating Pond, May 3, 2018 EcoWatch

[14] Body of Man Hit and Killed by Train Found on Railroad Tracks in Wolf Point, May 31, 2018 Billings Gazette

[15] TransCanada to Start Work on Keystone XL in Montana in Fall 2018: Letter, May 3, 2018 Reuters

[16] Judge Blocks Construction of Keystone XL Pipeline, November 11, 2018 Great Falls Tribune

[17] Press Release: Northern Plains Resource Council Wins KXL Lawsuit, November 8, 2018 Northern Plains Resource Council

[18] Keystone XL Pipeline Permit Rescinded! November 8, 2018 Indigenous Environmental Network

[19] Keystone XL Ruling, November 8, 2018 Scribd

[20] Press Release: Federal Judge Denies Pre-Construction Work on Keystone XL Pipeline, December 7, 2018 Northern Plains Resource Council

[21] Supplemental Order Regarding Permanent Injunction, December 7, 2018 U.S. District Court for Montana, Great Falls Division

[22] Legal Battles Continue to Stop Construction of KXL Pipeline, March 6, 2019 Glasgow Courier

[23] Appeals Court Throws Out Case Blocking Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline, Relying on New Permit Issued by President Trump, June 6, 2019 BOLD Nebraska

[24] Appellate Court Reverses Block of Keystone Pipeline, But Legal Hurdles to Construction Remain, June 06, 2019 KTVQ

[25] Future of Keystone XL Pipeline Could Be Decided in November, October 11, 2019 Great Falls Tribune

[26] Donate to WIRT, Wild Idaho Rising Tide Everbutton

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