In 2008, Canadian oil and gas company TransCanada began construction on the Keystone Pipeline, an extensive, four-phase pipeline project to connect Canadian tar sands (a vast source of crude oil) to refineries and distribution centers in the U.S.
The first phase, completed in 2010, is a 2,147-mi stretch of pipeline that runs from Hardisty, Alberta to southern Illinois via Steele City, Nebraska.
Phase II, completed in early 2011, added another 291 miles of pipeline, connecting the Keystone pipeline in Steele City to the oil hub of Cushing, Oklahoma.
Phase III connects Cushing to refineries in Texas. The first part of Phase III (the pipeline to Port Arthur) was completed in January of this year. The second part (the pipeline to the Houston area) is scheduled to go online in 2015.
The current controversy is over Phase IV, more commonly referred to as the Keystone XL: a proposed 1,179-mile extension of the current pipeline network.
The Obama administration has gone back and forth about whether or not to approve this final extension. Backlash from environmentalist groups, as well as a legal challenge from the state of Nebraska, have delayed a final decision on the extension for more than four years now.
But with the Republican party recently taking over both houses of Congress, it seems that the GOP plans to force Obama to make a decision on the pipeline in the near future.
Earlier this week, the House of Representatives voted 252-161 in favor of a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline extension (Phase IV).
And according to Yahoo News, the bill already has 59 out of the 60 votes it would need to pass the Senate (45 Republicans and 14 Democrats). If the bill passes the Senate, it will head to President Obama’s desk, where he will have to decide whether to approve it or veto it.
Now, Obama has yet another dissenting voice to account for in his decision. In response to the House’s vote on Friday, the President of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) released a statement saying that U.S. authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline is an act of war against the tribe.
The proposed pipeline extension would run through Sioux tribal lands in South Dakota, and Rosebud Sioux Tribal President Cyril Scott says his tribe has never been properly consulted about the project:
“The House has now signed our death warrants and the death warrants of our children and grandchildren. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe will not allow this pipeline through our lands.
“We are outraged at the lack of intergovernmental cooperation. We are a sovereign nation and we are not being treated as such. We will close our reservation borders to Keystone XL. Authorizing Keystone XL is an act of war against our people.”
Back in February, the Rosebud Sioux and other members of the Great Sioux Nation adopted Tribal resolutions opposing the Keystone XL project.
According to the Lakota Voice,
“The proposed route of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline crosses directly through Great Sioux Nation (Oceti Sakowin) Treaty lands as defined by both the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties and within the current exterior boundaries of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation and Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.”
In his statement, President Scott also stressed the need to live harmoniously with the environment, one of the cornerstones of Lakota Sioux culture:
“The Lakota people have always been stewards of this land. We feel it is imperative that we provide safe and responsible alternative energy resources not only to Tribal members but to non-Tribal members as well.
“We need to stop focusing and investing in risky fossil fuel projects like TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. We need to start remembering that the earth is our mother and stop polluting her and start taking steps to preserve the land, water, and our grandchildren’s future.”