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Eminent Domain for Keystone XL Contradicts “America First” Slogan

TransCanada launched its latest push to seize land from American landowners this summer. Christopher Vondracek reports in today’s Rapid City Journal that the Canadian oil-shipping corporation set legal balls rolling in July to use eminent domain to force South Dakota landowners to surrender to the corporation’s desire to run the Keystone XL pipeline through their land. One South Dakotan facing the loss of his private property rights is Jeffrey Jensen of Harding County:

“They (TransCanada) actually want to give less than they did before on my first easement, and there’s no sunset clause,” said Jensen. “And I guess I don’t agree with a foreign country being able to condemn your land” [Christopher Vondracek, “Keystone XL Moves to Condemn Private Land in Harding County for Pipeline,” Rapid City Journal, 2018.08.19].

Coming through your property, West River landowners, whether you like it or not. TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline depot, Gascoyne, North Dakota, 2012.02.16. Photo by Bret Clanton.
Coming through your property, West River landowners, whether you like it or not. TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline depot, Gascoyne, North Dakota, 2012.02.16. Photo by Bret Clanton.

Jensen’s legal plight invites obvious political and philosophical questions:

  1. Does “America First” mean Jensen’s property rights are second to a private, foreign company’s desire to ship Canadian oil to China?
  2. Why are we more concerned about immigrants crossing our southern border to take jobs that Americans don’t want than about a corporation crossing our northern border to take property rights that Americans do want?
  3. If there is no longer any economic imperative to conserve oil, then how can there be any need to produce and transport more oil than is sufficiently dire to justify the abrogation of private property rights?

Letting a Canadian country seize American property rights for a project the American economy does not need does not put America First.


  1. Donald Pay 2018-08-19 21:50

    There’s selective outrage because TransCanada paid off the people who control the outrage machine. There’s a whole industry built up around creating various Republican bogymen, creating doubt about and trying to debunk reality, and trying to cover up for various industries. It’s also political thing for Rush, Hannity, ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, etc., etc., to create outrage over, for example, Hillary and Uranium One. However, there appears to be zero outrage that the Trump Administration’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission is close to giving Uranium One the green light to expand their operations in Wyoming. Why is Trump giving the Russians more Wyoming uranium, when it was treasonous for Hillary to have simply approved a transfer of ownership? Is it because Trump is controlled by Putin? Trump could actually shut down Uranium One. Why isn’t he?

    It’s the same with gold mining in the Hills. Agnico Eagle mines paid a bribe to the South Dakota DENR and the US Environmental Protection Agency. Now they get to mine in a Superfund Site. They paid off the right folks. It’s all corruption.

  2. Debbo 2018-08-19 22:03

    Cory, this is perfect. You are my newest hero:
    “Why are we more concerned about immigrants crossing our southern border to take jobs that Americans don’t want than about a corporation crossing our northern border to take property rights that Americans do want?”

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-08-19 22:52

    Thanks, Debbo! And Donald, yes, selective outrage. One would think that, given his frequent disgust for the Canadian Prime Minister, Donald Trump would be similarly chafed at Canadians who take American property rights.

  4. jerry 2018-08-19 23:07

    The corporate government of the elites are just playing by the historical rules of the gilded age. This plague on the land will show once and for all the great con that rural folks, be they farmers, ranchers, Natives or just common citizens got handed to them by trump. Remember all, President Obama would not have screwed you like this, he appreciated land owners rights and rejected the Keystone XL

    Remember farmers and ranchers that it has always been the Democrats that have had your backs from property rights to your healthcare, Democrats have been there for you.

  5. jerry 2018-08-20 09:08

    Nebraska has forced Keystone XL to find another route through their state.

    “Energy Lorraine Chow
    Aug. 16, 2018 12:11PM EST
    The Keystone XL pipeline at one point was going to run through the sensitive Sand Hills areas of Nebraska west of Butte. The pipeline was rerouted around the Sand Hills, but still under the Niobrara River area pictured here on July 4, 2012. Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post via Getty Images
    Judge Orders Full Environmental Review of Keystone XL in Nebraska
    TransCanada’s long-gestating Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipeline was dealt another setback after a federal judge in Montana ruled Wednesday that the Trump State Department must conduct a robust environmental review of the alternative pipeline route through Nebraska.

    U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris sided with environmentalists, landowners and tribal plaintiffs in their challenge to the Trump administration. Pipeline opponents argued that the State Department’s approval of the KXL was based on an outdated Environmental Impact Statement from 2014 of the original route, and accused the administration of trying to short-cut the permitting process.

    Morris ordered the State Department to conduct a thorough Environmental Impact Statement for the “Mainline Alternative” route, approved by Nebraska officials in November, to supplement the 2014 review.

    In his decision, Morris said the State Department has the “obligation to analyze new information relevant to the environmental impacts of its decision,” according to Courthouse News Service.

    If built, the $8 billion 1,180-mile pipeline will transport heavy crude from Alberta’s tar sands to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. The controversial project has been at the center of an environmental fight for a decade. President Obama rejected the KXL in 2015 partly due to concerns about its contribution to climate change, but President Trump reversed the decision shortly after taking office.”

    If South Dakota had a real state government instead of a corrupted one, this kind of environmental abuse would end. Landowners, tribal entities as well as ordinary citizens of South Dakota could look proudly to Pierre and see that we were being looked out for. Instead, all we see is the corruption of big oil and big companies that come here to crap on the land without regard. How many springs and the proximity to water will this pipeline interfere with if built? Many. Look at Australia right now to see how an entire continent is in drought. Better yet, look to California and Canada to see how quickly water can be lost.

  6. Lynn Provost 2018-08-20 12:00

    Right on Mr. Jensen, there are many people in South Dakota standing behind you. Stay strong.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-08-20 12:44

    Indeed, Jerry. The South Dakota Legislature could have stopped this years ago with a simple statutory redefinition of “common carrier” (which Keystone XL is not).

  8. jerry 2018-08-20 13:12

    Actually Cory, they could still do that, if they really represented the people of South Dakota. But alas, they do not. They represent the money and the corruption that goes with it. Good governance is hard work, when you do it right. These guys are to far up corporate America’s arse to do any good at all. That is why ALEC is here and gives those awards, they know how little it costs them to do so as well. What would Betty Olson do? I think we are pretty clear on that, she may be gone, but her stank lives on.

  9. jerry 2018-08-20 20:22

    Mr. & Mrs. Jensen are true patriots. While South Dakota farmers and ranchers whine about China this and China that, while they sit on their haunches and accept that their pork, beans and other crops are being degraded for their substantial monetary loss. Mr. & Mrs.Jensen recognize that the pipeline will serve a foreign country of origin, Canada, and that the end product will go to the very China that his neighbors and fellow ag producers are all fakey angry with. Mr. & Mrs. Jensen and their fellow patriots, to include the tribes and some their fellow ag producers in harm’s way of the pipe line, should be given a huge tip of the hat too, they are what made this country great. To the State of Nebraska, thanks for the huge efforts of your heavy lift to make the changes we have seen, you guys rule man.

    Meanwhile, the State of South Dakota’s legislative branch, its paper hanging proclamation goofball governor and the PUC, all look at their belly buttons, picking the lint out, ignoring the injustice of what is happening.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-08-20 21:38

    I’ll do it, Jerry. And for all the outsiders who’ve already used eminent domain to seize private land, I’ll make sure they pay their fair share to compensate the good people of the state for the hazard we bear for their profit.

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