Skip to content

Regina chapter says Keystone XL pipeline approval threatens the Great Sandhills

The Council of Canadians Regina chapter is speaking out against the 830,000 barrel per day TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline was approved by US President Donald Trump on Friday (March 24), but still faces regulatory approvals in Nebraska (that could take 8-24 months), as well as First Nation and community opposition in that state and South Dakota.

Interviewed by CTV News, chapter activist Jim Elliott says, “The route that they picked for this one goes through some fairly sensitive areas up closer to the Great Sandhills and I know a number of First Nations have expressed some concern.” In January, Elliott had commented, “That area is both environmentally sensitive, but also very heritage-rich with our First Nations people.”

The Great Sand Hills is a 1,900 square kilometre region of arid plains and sand dunes that lies just southeast of the town of Leader in the southwestern corner of Saskatchewan. Tourism Saskatchewan adds, “Native grasses and small clumps of trees such as aspen, willow and sagebrush flank the dune formations. Mule deer and antelope frequent the area.”

529 kilometres of the pipeline would go through Alberta and Saskatchewan before crossing the border into the United States at Moncy, Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall welcomed Trump’s executive order approving the pipeline saying the construction of the pipeline would create jobs in the province.

The National Energy Board approved the pipeline in March 2010 under the Harper government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says, “We’re very pleased with the announcement coming out of the United States.” And Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr notes, “This is a very good opportunity for us to move more Alberta crude south of the border. It’s a very good example of how the integration of the energy economy in Canada and in the United States is in the interests of both countries, so we think it’s a good day.”

Filling the Keystone XL pipeline with tar sands crude would facilitate a 36 per cent increase in current tar sands production and increase greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 22 million tonnes a year. In 2015, the US Environmental Protection Agency stated that over a 50-year-period, Keystone XL would lead to the release of about 1.3 billion more tonnes of greenhouse gases than a conventional oil pipeline. The 1,897 kilometre pipeline from Hardisty, Alberta to Houston, Texas would also cross numerous waterways and the Ogallala aquifer, putting the drinking water for millions of people at risk.

The Council of Canadians travelled to Washington numerous times to join protests against Keystone XL, including calling on the Canadian embassy in August 2011 to demand that they stop lobbying for the pipeline, participating in the Surround the White House action in November 2011, and the Forward on Climate protest in February 2013.

We will continue to work with allies to oppose the construction of this pipeline and to support a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050.