Keystone XL Approval Met With Protest And Celebration In Montana

Mar 24, 2017

Hours before the Trump administration issued permits to resurrect the Keystone XL pipeline Friday morning a group on the Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana set out on a prayer walk to protest the pipeline.

Marina Starr woke with the sun Friday morning near Big Muddy Creek on the eastern edge of the reservation.

"It's a beautiful day out, a beautiful day for walking," Starr says.

Starr is one of the organizers of the continuous three-day prayer walk. She and more than a dozen other tribal members and veterans plan to traverse nearly 100 miles across the reservation, ending Sunday evening at Porcupine Creek on its western side.

Starr says the prayer walk is to raise awareness about the potential dangers of the pipeline, which will carry crude oil from tar sands production sites in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Extracting tar sands oil emits 17 percent more greenhouse gases than standard crude oil extraction, and environmentalists worry a breach in the 36-inch pipeline could contaminate drinking water sources.

"We want to protect our water treatment plant we have between Poplar and Wolf Point, which serves the entire Fort Peck Indian Reservation and off the reservation in northeast Montana," says Starr.

The Water Board Commission of the Fort Peck Tribes and farmers near the Yellowstone River have also come out in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Greg Gianforte, Republican candidate for Montana’s U.S. House seat, calls Trump's greenlight a "huge victory for Montana."

The Montana Chamber of Commerce, Montana Petroleum Association and 26 Montana legislators have also come out in support of the pipeline.

In a statement provided to the media, Republican Senator Steve Daines says the pipeline will be a job creator and generate more than $80 million in Montana property taxes:

"After way too many years of talk and delays, today is a long awaited day for Montana's counties that badly need the tax revenue of this job creating pipeline."

A spokesperson for the Montana Petroleum Association says the Keystone XL pipeline will create 1,500 temporary construction jobs in Montana, and 15 permanent positions at a terminal in Baker.