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Tribal Leaders Encouraged by Keystone Cancellation, Want More Action

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Thursday, January 21, 2021   

PIERRE, S.D. -- Shortly after taking office Wednesday, President Joe Biden signed several orders, including one that revokes the presidential permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The project goes through South Dakota, and while tribal leaders applaud Biden's move, they hope he doesn't stop there.

Construction work on Keystone has been suspended in light of Biden's action.

The plan first surfaced in 2008 and eventually was rejected by the Obama administration, before being revived by outgoing President Donald Trump.

Chase Iron Eyes, lead counsel for the Lakota People's Law Project, said seeing Keystone blocked again is encouraging, but the group feels there's another project in need of Biden's intervention.

"To uphold federal law, which requires a proper environmental impact statement in the Dakota Access Pipeline," Iron Eyes explained.

That separate project, which runs along the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, also has drawn heavy opposition from Indigenous communities.

Activity on Dakota Access paused last year after a judge ordered a more extensive environmental review. But various tribes have sent Biden a letter demanding quick and decisive action on Dakota Access.

Oil industry groups said shutting down these projects results in thousands of lost jobs.

Iron Eyes countered protecting tribal areas from environmentally questionable projects ties in with a movement to reclaim lands.

"To us, this is all related to Indigenous sovereignty," Iron Eyes concluded.

In various parts of the country, there are efforts to work out agreements with tribal governments over land that was taken from them decades ago, despite federal treaties.

In South Dakota, a land-exchange project advanced within the Rapid City Council last fall.

As for Keystone XL, some Republican senators are joining the oil industry in urging Biden to reconsider his move.


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