The Controversy over Keystone XL Pipeline

There is still much talk about the Keystone XL Pipeline and the controversy surrounding the construction of this transcontinental oil behemoth. Some argue for its construction as they say it will create pipeline jobs and boost local economies from Canada to Mexico, while others say no price tag can cover the harmful emissions and catastrophic effect the pipeline will have on the environment.  Then many Native Americans feel that besides an environmental risk, the Keystone XL Pipeline is in direct violation of treaties.

On February 19, 2014, a Nebraska district judge struck down a law that allowed the Keystone XL pipeline to proceed through Nebraska, saying it violated the state constitution. However, on Friday, January 9, 2015, the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the lower court ruling, clearing the way to begin pipeline construction.

A pending decision by Congress and their moves with this project may yet delay construction of the pipeline. The 114th Congress of the United States is still weighing their options on how to proceed, and we will all soon learn how this will play out at a national level.

In the meantime, we should all be aware of how the Keystone XL Pipeline will affect Native Americans. Beyond the environmental issues, and the politics, and the prediction of creating thousands and thousands of jobs, there exists that one remaining detail…. that tribes and the treaties the U.S. government has made with tribes must be given the lawful respect they deserve. The companies involved and the U.S. government need to consider this with the tribes directly.

Already, many of the tribes have spoken and expressed major concern about the safety and energy efficiency of this pipeline. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has expressed their opposition to this pipeline, as well as the potential for further damage to the environment and to Native lands, should there be any further ruptures of oil in the future. NCAI asked that the U.S. pursue sustainable energy solutions and look at clean energy alternatives as a way to move forward and reduce dependency on “the world’s dirtiest and most environmentally destructive form of oil – the ‘tar sands.” I feel this is a fair request.

No matter how this plays out, I hope the officials and decision-makers listen to the tribes in both Canada and America and consider what the Keystone XL Pipeline will really do for the citizens of the United States… all of the citizens. This question stands quite apart from that of generating profits for TransCanada, major oil sand producers like Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp and investors including those in the U.S.

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