PIERRE S.D. — Activists on the ground in western South Dakota opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline reacted with excitement, relief, and some reticence to news that incoming President Joe Biden would terminate the legal authority enabling the build of a pipeline.
Candi Brings Plenty, Indigenous Justice Organizer with the South Dakota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, has participated in demonstrations near the man-camp outside Philip where work on the pipeline has commenced. She called the KXL announcement "welcome news" in a phone call on Monday, Jan. 18 with Forum News Service.
"Construction of the pipeline and or a spill from the project would cause irreparable and devastating impact to local communities and ecosystems," Brings Plenty said.
Tashina Smith, co-founder of Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective, spoke from Rapid City, hours before a "Stand Your Group Music Fest" that she said was part of an advocacy campaign to hold the incoming Biden administration accountable for environmental promises made on the campaign trail.
"We heard the great news yesterday. And while that's awesome that (Biden) will do this on his first day, we want to ask, 'What about the other projects like Line 3?'" Smith said, referring to a natural gas pipeline construction across northern Minnesota that has been opposed to tribal groups.
South Dakota rancher and chairperson of Dakota Rural Action John Harter does not support President-elect Biden, adding he voted for President Donald Trump and would've cast a vote for "Bugs Bunny and Goofy, if they were on the ticket."
But he does support canceling the Keystone XL pipeline, which is reported to be among Biden's first tasks when he takes the Oval Office on Wednesday. He said he "wouldn't count his chickens till he (Biden) signs the papers."
"There's been so many ups and downs, and there's a lot of people who've been involved in this fight from the start that have passed on," Harter told the Forum News Service on Monday from his ranch in Tripp County. "I imagine they're looking down on what's going on right now and they're smiling."
On Sunday evening, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that sources close to Biden — who previously pledged in May to rescind the $9 billion pipeline extension that crosses western South Dakota — said the president-elect would "cancel" a permit that President Trump issued four years earlier to expedite the stalled process.
Other parties in western South Dakota have engaged in the decade-long battle to thwart the pipeline, either out of fear the infrastructure could damage local water supply or in opposition to the use of eminent domain to gain easement on private land.
"It is our hope that cancelling this permit will be the last we hear of this," said Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Rodney Bordeaux, in an emailed statement. "The US Department of State never adequately consulted with the tribes whose lands the pipeline would've crossed."
Over 100 miles of the pipeline — meant to connect Canadian oil across Montana and South Dakota to Steele City, Neb. — has already been built.
A spokesperson for TC Energy, the Calgary-based power company building the pipeline, did not respond to a request for comment. But social media posts from the company touted the project's "net-zero" emissions and union-backed workforce.
The pipeline for a decade has been a political football. In 2015, then-President Barack Obama denied an application by TC Energy to cross into the United States citing environmental concerns.