Imagine if your roommate had an affinity for candles and one day accidentally set your room on fire. The next day, Conn sends an email to all of its students announcing that candles can now be lit in all of the dorms. That would be ridiculous. Yet, a scarily similar scenario occurred just three weeks ago when Nebraska approved the construction the Keystone XL Pipeline. This happened four days after the current Keystone Pipeline, owned and operated by the same company, leaked more than 210,0000 gallons of oil.
Both the new and the ruptured pipelines are run by TransCanada, a company that provides natural gas, oil and power to much of North America. Keystone XL intends to shorten and supplement the existing Keystone Pipeline that runs through the heartland of the Midwest, connecting the Alberta oil sands with oil refineries on the Gulf Coast.
This Canadian oil and gas giant has a notoriously spotty record when it comes to pipeline leaks. In addition to its most recent oil spill of nearly 5000 barrels, TransCanada pipelines sprung gas leaks in 1996, 2009, and 2014. The company claims to prioritize safety, but clearly the focus is set on the safety of investments of its shareholders, and not the safety of local residents or of the environment.
Many groups are concerned about the environmental consequences that yet another oil pipeline could have, especially because of its proximity to sensitive wetlands and potential to contaminate water sources locals depend on. This concern sparked protests across the East Coast and Midwest, where indigenous groups and allies in South Dakota powerfully objected to the violation of land rights.
TransCanada intended to route the pipeline through reservation property and then, after heavy objection, just outside reservation boundaries. This issue reached a climax when federal, local, and state police and private security collaborated to mount a heavy-handed response against a mere 170 peaceful and unarmed Sioux protesters at Standing Rock. In addition, the company planned to seize—through a combination of signed agreements and eminent domain confiscations—land from hundreds of farmers and ranchers. This eventually resulted in a win for environmentalists, scientists and native peoples alike when President Obama refused to approve the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2015.
Cut to January 2017, when almost immediately after taking office, Donald Trump advocated an expedited approval of the pipeline project. Suddenly environmental and indigenous rights groups needed to revive and reorganize in order to fight the pipeline once again. The Dakota Access Pipeline has since been hurriedly approved and is scheduled to begin construction in Spring 2018. Native American groups in South Dakota are asking fellow citizens to join them in picket-line-style protests in the hopes of obstructing construction of the pipeline this spring.
Now, with impending massive tax cuts for corporations and the top 1%, it seems that corporate America has won yet another battle to exploit the general population for its own gain. But this should not be the end of the story. Americans need to get loud about the issues that are most important to them if they want to see change.