FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 31, 2020
Mark Hefflinger, Bold Nebraska, mark [at] boldnebraska.org
Collin Rees, Oil Change International, collin [at] priceofoil.org
Jared Margolis, Center for Biological Diversity, jmargolis [at] biologicaldiversity.org
Gabby Brown, Sierra Club, gabby.brown [at] sierraclub.org
Katherine Quaid, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, katherine [at] wecaninternational.org
Indigenous, Landowner, Environmental, and Conservation Groups Demand TC Energy Immediately Halt All Keystone XL Pipeline Activity amid Coronavirus Public Health Emergency
As coronavirus forces social distancing and community lockdowns, TC Energy endangers thousands of workers and rural communities unequipped to handle public health threat, increased crime, and sexual violence arising from pipeline worker “man camps”
HASTINGS, NEBRASKA — A broad coalition of Indigenous, landowner, environmental, and conservation groups on Tuesday called on TC Energy (formerly TransCanada Corporation) to immediately halt all activity on its Keystone XL pipeline project due to the coronavirus public health threat.
Despite the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and despite still lacking several crucial construction permits, TC Energy announced today its intention to move forward with work on its Keystone XL pipeline project — potentially further endangering the health of thousands of out-of-state contract workers traveling to work on the pipeline and the rural and Tribal communities who will be exposed to them.
TC Energy plans to send thousands of workers into rural communities to build a half dozen “man camps” across Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska — temporary housing where hundreds of pipeline workers would live together in close quarters throughout months of pipeline construction, adding strain to these same small, very rural communities already dealing with the coronavirus public health crisis with limited access to healthcare facilities.
Over the past weeks, many cities have instituted bans on construction projects, including Boston, San Francisco, and New York; in Pennsylvania, construction on a Shell ethane cracker plant and further construction of the proposed Mariner East pipeline have been halted. Meanwhile, TC Energy has yet to acknowledge the inherent threat that its man camps and hundreds of outside workers would pose to rural and Tribal communities.
In addition to threatening rural and Tribal communities with man camps, TC Energy is also needlessly endangering rural counties’ elected officials, county commissioners, government employees, and concerned citizens. Despite the public health threat, these parties are being forced by TC Energy to continue processing and filing opposition to its various applications for county-level Keystone XL construction permits, road haul agreements, and preparations to build the man camps.
TC Energy has not yet secured all the required local, state, and federal permits to move forward with the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, nor has it acquired the necessary easements from the landowners in Nebraska, who have active cases challenging eminent domain seizures of their land in court. In addition, permits for the project issued by the Trump administration are currently facing three federal lawsuits, further impeding the project’s completion.
“Our rural and Tribal communities are strained as it is for medical supplies and hospital beds amid a global pandemic. TC energy must put an end to all activity on Keystone XL in our small towns as the pandemic grows across our country,” said Jane Fleming Kleeb, Bold Nebraska founder. “All these years TC Energy bragged about being a good neighbor and they are now putting lives at risk with this move. TC Energy never had the investment community’s backing to build this risky, unnecessary pipeline. and now that the Albertan government is bailing them out, they are moving forward. I am confident when a new Democratic President is in the White House, they will not allow construction to take place in America and will instead side with farmers, ranchers and Tribal Nations. Legally, TC Energy is facing eminent domain lawsuits from landowners, and county boards have not granted permits in Nebraska, while nationally there are several lawsuits in federal court challenging the project’s permits and seeking a preliminary injunction on construction. So while they may have a green light to build in Alberta, they do not have all the permits and regulatory approvals necessary to move forward in America.”
“TC Energy and the Alberta government’s reckless attempt to push through the failing Keystone XL pipeline during a global pandemic is beyond the pale, endangering the pipeline’s workers and our rural and Tribal communities,” said Collin Rees, Senior Campaigner at Oil Change International. “Keystone XL was a non-starter a decade ago and remains one today. We need to invest billions of public dollars directly in vulnerable communities dying from COVID-19, not spend taxpayer money propping up massive oil companies and projects that would trample Indigenous rights, risk human health, and exacerbate climate chaos.”
“In this time of crisis, it is horrendous that the government of Alberta is choosing to invest billions of dollars into a project that will never be finished. This is nothing more than a last chance effort to bailout a dying industry,” said Dallas Goldtooth, Keep it in the Ground Campaigner of Indigenous Environmental Network. “But let be known, Indigenous communities stand ready to defend their homelands and protect their inherent rights against the threats of KXL construction. They will not let this project be completed.”
“This ecologically disastrous and illegal project flaunts the measures necessary to protect the public from harm in so many ways,” said Jared Margolis, Senior Attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Moving forward with Keystone XL in the midst of a worldwide pandemic is an environmental disgrace that can only contribute to another global catastrophe.”
“Over the last decade of pushing their dirty tar sands pipeline, TC Energy has already made it abundantly clear that they don’t care about risks to our communities, but this is a shameful new low,” said Catherine Collentine, Associate Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “By barrelling forward with construction during a global pandemic, TC Energy is putting already vulnerable communities at even greater risk. Keystone XL still faces numerous legal challenges, and we will continue to fight to ensure this dangerous pipeline is never completed.”
“The decision by the Alberta Government to provide a billion dollars in fossil fuel subsidies to build Keystone on the heels of laying off 26,000 education staff yesterday is reprehensible,” said Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director for Stand.Earth. “Given the price of oil, the pandemic and the climate emergency this move makes Canada even more vulnerable to lurching from crisis to crisis.”
“Shame on TC Energy and the U.S. and Canadian governments who enabled them to use this global health crisis as an excuse to prop up their pipeline boondoggle. TC Energy is leveraging this crisis as an opportunity to extend the life of unsustainable fossil fuels and ignore the people’s demand to invest in our future. With no irony, TC Energy is literally being bailed out at the expense of the health and safety,” said Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, North America Director at 350.org. “Indigenous people and rural communities along the KXL route are already extremely vulnerable. We reject fossil fuel industry use of a moment of fragility to make ill timed investment in a project doomed to failure. For over a decade, Indigenous Nations, ranchers, and everyday people have fought to beat this project back, reminding the world that Big Oil isn’t invincible, and we will continue to do just that. We will follow the leadership of Indigenous Nations who have led this fight and prioritize their self-determination and vision as we work to re-appropriate the corrupt earnings of extraction.”
“It was true a decade ago, and it is still true now — the KXL Pipeline being pushed by TC Energy and US and Canadian governments will recklessly lock our planet into further climate chaos. Within the context of the COVID-19 crisis, it is clear now more than ever that public health, people’s rights, and the rights of the Earth must be prioritized,” said Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network. “We are also very concerned for the health and safety of Indigenous women due to man camps related to this pipeline. We must stop the fossil fuel industry and governments from taking advantage of our communities at this critical time.”
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