Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline is set to begin in 2019, but before then, the public has a chance to comment on the new environmental assessment that the State Department released Monday. And so far, some tribal members and groups aren’t loving its conclusion that the pipeline would have minimal impacts on land, groundwater, and environmental justice. The federal government has taken a second stab at the environmental review process after President Donald Trump’s commitment to pushing through the crude oil project as well as the new route the Nebraska Public Utilities Commission approved last year. That route—dubbed the Mainline Alternative Route—follows the already-existing Keystone Pipeline more closely. The assessment says that while there’s potential for oil spills, the developer has response plans in place to prevent any environmental damage. However, the original Keystone Pipeline spilled more than 400,000 gallons of oil last year. Overall, the 300-page assessment makes the project sound like a net positive with minimal downsides for the communities that would live near it, including the 67 Native American tribes. And that’s what opponents of the pipeline have taken issue with. “Here’s the largest aquifer in the world, and you want to put crude oil in it and consider it a minor impact?” Chandra Mechelle Walker, a member of the Omaha Nation in Nebraska who chairs on the state’s Native Caucus for the Democratic Party, told Earther. She’s talking about the Ogallala Aquifer, which covers more than 170,000 square miles from South Dakota all the way to… [Read full story]
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