The 36-inch pipeline, hence the designation XL, is designed to carry oil mined from tar sands in Alberta to Port Arthur, Texas refineries. From there the products can be shipped throughout the United States or, as critics have complained, elsewhere in the world. Other objections to the pipeline include the fact that it locks in an infrastructure with a 50-year life span for a source of oil with a higher carbon footprint than conventional oil and that it promotes an unsustainable dependence on a fossil fuel that worsens climate shift from global warming.
The border-crossing northern segment of the pipeline has been rejected by the U.S. State Department, a decision backed up by President Obama and attacked by Republicans, because of the potential impact on the Sandhills and the acquifer, which supplies irrigation and drinking water to a wide swath of some of the nation's most productive farmland. The president said he would keep an "open mind" about any new application putting the pipeline on a different route.
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In an interview at an energy conference in Houston Tuesday, TransCanada President of Energy and Oil Pipelines Alex Pourbaix says the U.S. State Department has told his company that it may make a decision on any application for a new route by March 2013. He is confident it will be approved: “We’re talking about a relatively modest jog around the Sandhills."
The new routes would involve some 19 miles of additional pipe and about a 99- to 109-mile reroute around the Sandhills, Pourbaix said.
But Jane Kleeb, the director of the progressive advocacy group Bold Nebraska, and a pipeline critic, says Pourbaix is overly optimistic about getting the go-ahead. She says the idea of a "jog" around the sand hills is nonsense:
“I would love for him to say that to ranchers, because he would be running out of Nebraska if he tried to say that. That kind of arrogance and disrespect for the Sandhills and our land is outrageous, and you can’t just jog around the Sandhills.” [...]Meanwhile, several members of the Oglala band of Lakota Indians were arrested Tuesday for blocking trucks carrying "treater" equipment for tar sands mining. The trucks were traversing the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota near the town of Wanblee (the Lakota word for eagle). One of those arrested, Debra White Plume, who was previously arrested along with 1,250 other people at the White House last summer for protesting the pipeline, wrote:
And while Bold Nebraska and other groups were concerned about the Sandhills, a reroute does not allay their worries about the effects the pipeline could have on the Ogallala aquifer, a vast underground water source that supplies eight states.
“That is the backbone and the lifeblood of our state’s economy, the (agriculture) economy,” she said. “And any risk to that is just something that we’re not going to allow happen.”
There were about 75 people at the blockade. Approximately 20 cars parked in front of the semi-trucks, who were accompanied by about a dozen pickups with flags displaying wide load warnings, etc. They also had their own electric trucks were traveling with them in order to push up the power lines in their path.TransCanada says construction on the southern-most section of the Keystone XL route, from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast, should begin in late spring or early summer. It is slated to be carrying oil by mid-2013.
The trucks were too enormous to turn around. The tribal police arrested us as we did not want the trucks to proceed across our land. We were told the tribal police were going to escort the heavy haul caravan to the reservation border and direct them to the state highways.
Alex White Plume, Sr. and I, along with Sam Long Black Cat, Andrew Iron Shell, and Terrell Eugene Iron Shell were all arrested by the tribal police. We were all handcuffed and charged with disorderly conduct, as the police said there were no other charges to bring against us.