Published on Aug 18, 2011
NCAI opposes Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline; calls for energy demand to be met by responsible energy development
WASHINGTON, DC – In anticipation of a forthcoming Environmental Impact Statement by U.S. State Department on the proposed Keystone XL Oil Pipeline, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) issued a statement today saying the proposed pipeline expansion could severely impact Native American communities and “poses grave dangers if it is constructed.” The statement released by NCAI, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native advocacy organization, reaffirms the position of its members and expresses solidarity with Canadian First Nations concerned about the project.
“The Keystone XL pipeline . . . would threaten, among other things, water aquifers, water ways, cultural sites, agricultural lands, animal life, public drinking water sources and other resources vital to the peoples of the region in which the pipeline is proposed to be constructed,” reads an NCAI resolution (PDF) passed at the organization’s most recent gathering of members this past June.
The organization is calling for domestic energy demands to be met by developing energy resources responsibly in order to protect vital natural resources, such as vast water reserves.
“Homeland and economic security starts with energy security, but Indian Country wants it to be done right; not at the expense of the health of our communities and resources, both tribal and non-tribal, ” said Jefferson Keel, President of NCAI, citing the importance of looking to clean domestic energy as a more reliable solution. “During challenging economic times in our country and in our tribal nations, domestic energy when developed responsibly can create jobs while ensuring that our people and natural resources remain safe and plentiful.”
The proposed expansion of the pipeline would cross through northern Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Oklahoma with potential devastating impacts on communities in surrounding areas and states. A recent study by a University of Nebraska hydrologist outlines a worst case spill scenario, estimating that Keystone XL could spill as much as 7.9 million gallons in Nebraska's Sandhills, polluting 5 billion gallons of groundwater with benzene, contaminating water used for agriculture and drinking drawn from the Ogallala Aquifer, and more than 6.9 million gallons of tar sands crude at the Yellowstone River crossing. That estimate far exceeds the Exxon Mobil’s July 1, 2011 spill of 42,000 gallons near the Apsáalooke (Crow) Nation territory in south-central Montana, contaminating 240 miles of the Yellowstone River.
Responsible alternatives to importing energy resources from outside the United States are abundant, and specifically on tribal lands. In addition to plentiful traditional energy options on tribal lands, the National Renewable Energy Lab’s (NREL) estimates that the wind potential in Indian Country could provide 32 percent of U.S. annual electric generation, where as solar energy potential in Indian Country equals twice the total amount of electricity the U.S. generates per year.
The U.S. State Department is expected to issue the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the pipeline in mid-August. Following the issuance of the FEIS, the State Department will undergo a 90-day process to determine whether the pipeline serves the national interest. The National Interest Determination is made by the U.S. State Department and is the final step in the permitting process.
Click here to download and read NCAI’s Resolution: