Ken Santema reports on the Keystone XL protest held in conjunction with President Barack Obama’s visit to Watertown last week. He finds that the protesters, largely American Indians from Sisseton organized by Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, are less worried about climate change (the usual rallying cry of somewhat narrow-visioned national protest groups) and more worried about two immediate environmental and social impacts to Indians and the rest of us here in South Dakota:
- Keystone XL may leak and contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer and the Missouri River.
- The mancamps housing pipeline builders will put Indian communities at risk of sexual violence and strain local law enforcement and infrastructure. (See the Bakken mancamps for empirical examples.)
Santema also finds some protesters expressing concern about Keystone XL running through sacred tribal lands. TransCanada routed its pipeline around Indian reservations to avoid having to deal with tribal governments, but Keystone XL would still cross numerous waterways supplying the reservations, as well as the Oglala Sioux Rural Water Supply System. Tribal advocates contend the pipeline will also cross sacred sites off reservation. Those concerns have motivated South Dakota tribes to lead the fight against Keystone XL before the Public Utilities Commission.