By Danielle Droitsch - Switchboard.nrdc.org
Today, the nation’s oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), announced their opposition to the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This important announcement adds to the growing chorus of voices across the United States opposed to this pipeline and clearly finds that an additional tar sands pipeline is not in the national interest.
The NCAI resolution firmly states how Keystone XL is not in the national interest:
...the United States is urged to reduce its reliance on the world’s dirtiest and most environmentally destructive form of oil – the ‘tar sands’ – that threatens Indian country in both Canada and the United States and the way of life of thousands of citizens of First Nations in Canada and American Indians in the U.S., and requests the U.S. government to take aggressive measures to work towards sustainable energy solutions that include clean alternative energy and improving energy efficiency…
Why is the National Congress of American Indians concerned? Should Keystone XL rupture, it has the potential to impact many tribes and thousands of their individual members. The resolution says “it is probable that further environmental disasters will occur in Indian country if the new pipeline is allowed to be constructed.” The NCAI may be rightly concerned about the almost 1 million gallons of tar sands that spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan a year ago, the spill of 42,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River this summer and the more than 30 leaks from TransCanada’s brand new Keystone pipeline in its first year of operation in the US and Canada.
The resolution also expresses solidarity with the Canadian First Nations who have been raising concerns about Keystone XL and tar sands development in the province of Alberta for years. The Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada, representing over 630 First Nations communities and more than 700,000 First Nations spoke of concerns about the impact of tar sands development on affected communities:
"The health impacts of the oil sands are a real concern and have been raised in recent studies. In Canada, we are particularly disturbed by the high rate of cancer in the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and support the call for an independent health study to examine the people there to assess potential health damage from the oil sands." --Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, Assembly of First Nations.
President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should pay heed to the voice of tribal governments. As the NCAI resolution states, there are broader questions about whether Keystone XL is aligned with America’s clean energy future. Shortly, the US State Department will release the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the pipeline. The question will be whether that environmental review was thorough enough. But there will also be a new question: Does Keystone XL serve the national interest? The National Congress of American Indians will very likely say no.