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A(nother) Keystone Oil Spill

Early this month, a breach in the Keystone pipeline spilled roughly 600,000 gallons of oil into a creek in rural northeastern Kansas. This is recorded as the biggest Keystone leak to date, but hardly the only; aside from many smaller leaks, the Keystone spilled 1.4 million liters of oil in eastern North Dakota in 2019. These spills are what environmentalists are consistently warning the public – and government officials – about. Oil spills can cause long-lasting or even permanent destruction of natural lands and water.

When thinking of the Keystone pipeline, many people’s first thoughts will go to the ongoing protests from years past against the building of an extension to the pipeline: the Keystone XL. The Keystone XL was proposed by TC Energy, which is the company that owns the current Keystone pipeline. This extension would expand pipeline access, beginning in Alberta, Canada, and going through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. TC Energy promised increased crude oil access, transporting tar sands crude oil from beneath the boreal forest in Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Tar sands have proven to pose a great threat to environmental wellness when they are, inevitably, spilled into natural lands and waters.

Thanks to over a decade of protests against the development of this pipeline extension, the XL never came to fruition, with the possibility of being officially shut down by the Biden administration. Communities came together to voice their disapproval of the pipeline; Indigenous communities, religious leaders, politicians, ranchers, and farmers alike voiced frustration with the disregard for environmental protections. Labor unions, scientists, and even the Dalai Lama spoke out in opposition to the XL. 

Indigenous populations were, as usual, at the forefront of this fight. Lakota activist Nick Tilsen is vocal about lands being returned to Indigenous tribes, including lands in South Dakota – where the XL would run through –  being returned to the Lakota tribe. The details of this plan can be found in the manifesto of the Land Back Movement. Returning lands to Indigenous populations would ensure the protection, restoration, and preservation of natural lands and wildlife. 

Regardless of arguments by lobbyists or politicians, where there are pipelines, there will be spills. Does the profit outweigh the cost in this situation? Can a monetary value be put upon clean water and wildlife preservation? Is there a price tag on a healthy planet? Stopping the development of the Keystone XL is a major win for environmental protection over capitalist greed; this must be used as a template for future destructive and dangerous plans within our communities.

Interested in learning more about the Land Back Movement? Check out their website here:

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Land Back Movement

Interested in learning more about the Land Back Movement? Check out their website here:

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