In South Dakota, a leading tribal critic, senator react to news of Keystone XL's demise

South Dakota was one of the states the controversial pipeline had been slated to cross upon construction. Workers had already left the state back in January.

South Dakota's U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, a Republican, speaks with residents in the Philip, S.D. ambulance hall on February 8, 2021 to hear concerns about President Biden's decision to rescind a permit allowing for the construction of the Canadian-owned oil pipeline known as Keystone XL. (Christopher Vondracek / Forum News Service)
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PIERRE, S.D. — Word that Canadian energy firm TC Energy has pulled the plug on the Keystone XL oil pipeline is sending a mixed reaction across South Dakota -- from frustration to joy.

The latest, and possibly final, twist in the development of a pipeline that was set to bifurcate the state's western half as the line traversed from Canada down into Montana toward a transfer station in Nebraska was cheered by tribal voices who'd opposed the project on environmental and cultural grounds.

"I would like to thank United States President Joseph Biden for understanding the damage to this planet projects like this would cause and cancelling the permit needed to cross the medicine line with Canada," read a statement issued on Wednesday, June 9, by Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, one of nine tribal nations wholly or partially encompassed by the borders of South Dakota.

But the project's cancellation -- announced by TC Energy, a private energy company, the same day -- roiled the state's junior senator, Mike Rounds, who called KXL's demise a "huge mistake" in a statement sent to reporters Thursday, June 10.

"This will hurt us both economically and environmentally for years to come," said Rounds, noting the pipeline's parent company had targeted zero-emissions and that the cumulative effect of ending the pipeline will mean more oil transported by rail and roads.


"It's clear that the president listened to the loudest left-wing voices in the room," argued Rounds.

TC Energy announced they'd scuttle the project Wednesday. Biden, who'd promised to cancel the controversial pipeline on the campaign trail, pulled a permit necessary for the pipeline to cross into the U.S. on his first day in office.

Within days of that announcement, say locals around the western town of Philip, South Dakota, workers who'd moved to the area to build the pipeline had already left.

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg had joined a lawsuit seeking to reverse the Biden administration's decision on the pipeline.

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