By Talli Nauman, Native Sun News health and environment editor:
WANBLEE – Recent dilbit spills and extreme weather events highlight the need to prevent increasing tar-sands crude-oil transport, Anishinaabe environmental leader Winona LaDuke said Oct. 13.
“The Keystone XL is like the climate-change express,” said LaDuke, founder of the non-profit Honor The Earth.
“The Keystone XL accelerates climate change because it accelerates extraction of tar-sands, which is the dirtiest fuel on earth,” she said.
TransCanada Corp., based in Calgary, Alberta, is seeking a Presidential Permit from the U.S. State Department to build a pipeline link across the U.S.-Canada border and finish a proposed 1,179-mile stretch of the Keystone XL project that would carry diluted bitumen (dilbit) along a route between the Rosebud, Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River Indian reservations.
The State Department is expected to rule in 2014 on whether the permit is in “the national interest,” and U.S. President Barack Obama is on record as supporting it “if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”
Having already quashed two attempts to approve the permit, Obama has warned that “the net effects of the pipeline’s impacts on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”
TransCanada Corp. notes that “two of Canada’s most respected climate scientists – Andrew Weaver and Neil Swart of the University of Victoria – published research in the British scientific journal Nature Climate Change. They confirmed the climate impact of producing the oil sands is nowhere near a ‘doomsday scenario’. The research found that even if every single barrel of the oil sands is produced (a near impossible feat); it would result in a cumulative global warming impact of 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit.”
The International tar-sands opponent’s organization 350.org quotes scientists as saying that exploitation of known tar-sands would unlock 240 of the 350 ppm considered to be the safe upper limit for CO2 in the atmosphere.
“You might just want to not do the tar sands,” LaDuke told the Native Sun News. “This is about protecting the earth and water,” she said.
The four-day ride to Bridger was sponsored by Honor The Earth, 350.org and the Swift Family fund.
Kicking it off with a prayer was Lakota elder Marie Randall.
“She talked about our culture and why they need to do this ride to prevent this tar-sands pipeline from happening, to protect our land and water,” Pine Ridge Indian Reservation Eagle Nest District Rep. Ruth Brown told the Native Sun News.
Brown and several dozen participants in the ride gathered at the Wanblee meeting hall on the evening of Oct. 12 for supper served by community members supporting the activity, she said. After camping in the hall and breakfast, the riders set out for the first-day’s destination of Kadoka.
They were slated to intersect with the pipeline route, which crosses the Cheyenne River at the convergence of Meade, Pennington, Haakon and Ziebach counties. That is located in treaty lands adjudicated to the Great Sioux Nation, which has led to numerous tribal and treaty council declarations opposing it.
Their journey also went through ranchlands where some 100,000 head of cattle are estimated to have died in an extreme weather event that resulted in record-breaking snowfall and postponed the ride for a week. “One-hundred-thousand dead cattle is the price you play for climate change,” LaDuke said. “These animals are helpless in the face of it.”
LaDuke cited severe flooding in the Rocky Mountains and Boulder, Colorado- area a week before as another example of the cost of climate change.
Among recent pipeline ruptures she cited was a Sept. 29 break in the Tesoro Corp. line that reportedly polluted a farmer’s wheat field in Tioga, North Dakota, with more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil and only came to public attention after 11 days thanks to an Associated Press inquiry.
With the equivalent of 800,000 gallons of oil spreading across seven acres, the incident was deemed the largest spill in state history. Authorities calculate cleanup will last about two years.
LaDuke rode 70 miles in an Anishinaabe Ride for Mother Earth beginning Sept. 29 and following Enbridge Corp.’s Alberta Clipper tar-sands crude-oil pipeline through three northern Minnesota Indian Reservations.
Line 6 of that route ruptured three years ago near a tributary of the Kalamazoo River, causing dilbit to spread through wetlands and creating the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history. The EPA and other agencies continue to work on cleanup.
While business owners and investors in the oil industry continued to lobby the White House in favor of the profits the Keystone XL Pipeline and others like it would generate, numerous actions in opposition were held across North America in Idle No More’s Oct. 7 Global Day of Action to “Honor Indigenous Sovereignty and to Protect the Land & Water”.
Contact Talli Nauman Native Sun News health and environment editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright permission by Native Sun News.