South Dakotans Fear For Their Future, Vow Not To Give Up Keystone XL Pipeline Fight

Barnini ChakrabortyFebruary 10, 20218min
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In one of his first acts as commander in chief, President Biden stopped construction of the $8 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline. In the fourth part of this series, “Pipe Dreams Lost,” the Washington Examiner reports on how South Dakotans are refusing to give up the fight, appealing to their local lawmakers and even Biden himself.

President Biden might have pulled the plug on the Keystone XL pipeline on his first full day in office, but pipeline workers, residents, and business owners in South Dakota affected by the decision say they aren’t giving up without a fight.

Some are reaching out to their lawmakers in Washington, while others like Peter Bardeson, business manager for the Laborers, Local 620 in Sioux Falls, says his union plans to appeal to Biden directly.

“We can’t just let the president sign something and kill it,” he told the Washington Examiner. “We can’t roll over and play dead. We need to at least let him see what he’s killing.”

As one of his first acts in office, Biden revoked a key permit for the cross-border venture with Canada.

If the plans had stayed in place, the Keystone XL pipeline would have carried Canadian crude oil from Alberta and Steele City, Nebraska. The pipeline would connect two points of an existing pipeline, also called Keystone, which carries oil from Canada to Gulf Coast oil refineries. Construction of the extension began in 2020 after a decade of protests from environmental activists, Native Americans, and ranchers along its proposed route. They’ve raised concerns about climate change and said oil spills could contaminate the land and pollute drinking water.

Most recently, opponents said that pipeline workers living in close quarters could contract COVID-19 and spread it to nearby communities and reservations.

At first, when Biden reversed former President Donald Trump’s approval of a right-of-way allowing the pipeline to be built across the United States, it came off to many as a symbolic gesture toward environmentalists and Native Americans who have protested the pipeline for more than a decade.

However, the weight of his decision and the lives it has affected is only now coming into focus.

Not only are thousands of pipeline workers out of good-paying jobs, health benefits, and a pension, the communities and small businesses supporting the pipeline are also suffering.

South Dakota Rep. Dusty Johnson, North Dakota Rep. Kelly Armstrong, and Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse met with more than a dozen business owners at an ambulance garage in Philip, South Dakota, on Monday to hear their concerns. During the meeting, Armstong compared Biden’s executive order to rezoning a “corner lot to commercial” late in the game, the Dickinson Press reported.

“Somebody’s bought the new material, they’ve knocked down the residential house, they’ve started construction on the convenience store, they bought the gas pumps, and then a new mayor comes in and said, ‘I don’t know the facts have changed. I don’t know the law has changed, but I’m going to revoke that zoning change,” Johnson said. “We don’t do that in America.”

Jerry Kroetch, president of Scotchman Industries, said the end of the pipeline project would be disastrous to the community.

“We don’t rely on the interstate,” he said. “We don’t rely on tourism. But we’re a strong, strong-knit community that’s hard to find, and if we don’t get help from the outside, we’re just going to get smaller and smaller.”

Over the course of two weeks, the Washington Examiner has spoken to several shop owners, residents, and local leaders about how the pipeline has helped their community and what it means now that the project has come to an end.

Neil Petersen, the former owner of Pizza Etc. in Philip, isn’t happy with Biden’s decision.

He had seen a big bump in business and has become “good friends with quite a few” of the pipeliners in the process.

In fact, Petersen offered up his shop for their orientation meeting and even provided the coffee. He has since sold the pizza place but opened up Petersen’s Variety store two doors down.

“They bought all their food local,” he said. “They bought everything local.”

Philp native Lacy Williams said while there may have been some apprehension in the beginning, the pipeliners have become part of the community.

“A lot of businesses picked up, and then it got to where we were friendly with everybody, and you could trust the pipeliners,” she told the Washington Examiner. “It wasn’t like you were weirded out to have older daughters out … everyone says, ‘Oh, watch your wives and your daughters because the pipeline has moved to town,’ but they were very good about the townspeople.”

In Buffalo, South Dakota, the pipeline has paid for infrastructure upkeep.

“They did some prep work on the roads and things like that,” city attorney Dusty Ginsbach told the Washington Examiner. “Of course, they paid the county for a lot of those things upfront, and so it relieved the tax burden that was already placed on us.”

He added that there were some local businesses that had made updates in previous years and that having pipeliners in Buffalo “certainly would have recaptured a lot of their investments.”

Both TC Energy and the Canadian government censured Biden’s move. TC Energy said it was “disappointed” with the executive order, which overturns “an unprecedented, comprehensive regulatory process that lasted more than a decade and repeatedly concluded the pipeline would transport much-needed energy in an environmentally responsible way.”

TC Energy did not respond to multiple requests by the Washington Examiner on its next steps, but Midland hotel owner Laurie Cox said she’s not giving up the fight.

Like Cox, Philip Mayor Michael Vetter doesn’t believe the Keystone XL pipeline is a done deal.

“I’m quite certain this project is on pause, not stop,” Vetter said. “It has dragged out for several years. Each time, beginning and stopping on the whims of individual presidents or judges. And each time, thousands of American jobs hang in the balance. A decision of finality is needed, one way or the other.”

Author : Barnini Chakraborty

Source : Washington Examiner : South Dakotans fear for their future and vow not to give up Keystone XL pipeline fight