The Keystone XL Pipeline is coming to a Montana neighborhood near you.
Developer TransCanada will begin the necessary work, like clearing plants and shit, in fall 2018 to prepare for the beginning of construction in early 2019, according to Reuters. The Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs sent a letter to Native American tribes in Montana—including the Assiniboine and Sioux of the Fort Peck Reservation—in an attempt to help them Keep Calm and Carry On. The department is saying this is consultation, but it feels more like a notification.
“As you may be aware, TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. (Keystone) intends to begin vegetative clearing in preparation for the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline (Project) this fall,” the State Department letter said, per Reuters.
Tribes haven’t made much noise since the April 10 letter was sent, but indigenous groups have long opposed the 1,179-mile long crude oil pipeline, which has been in the works since 2008. Native American tribes and nations from Canada and different U.S. states have engaged in international declarations against the project and civil disobedience actions. Just last year, the Fort Peck tribes embarked on an 85-mile walk to bring awareness to the pipeline, which they worry will harm their water supply.
This long-held opposition eventually caught the attention of former President Barack Obama. In 2015, he rejected a necessary permit to bring the oil from the Canadian tar sands into the U.S. Then, President Donald Trump happened. He was all like, “Fuck that,” and steamrolled the project through executive order.
Now, Keystone XL is dealing with lawsuits in Nebraska, but, apparently, that’s not stopping TransCanada from making moves in Montana. This comes just weeks after a spill at an Anadarko Minerals Inc.-owned (but closed) oil well—which unleashed 600 barrels of oil and 90,000 of brine, water used to service oil and gas pipelines and wells—in northeastern Montana near the Fort Peck Reservation. That spill contaminated a water pond tribes use for livestock.
So, tribes have good reason to be concerned about a humongous line carrying 830,000 barrels of oil a day. Keystone XL’s sister pipeline, Keystone, suffered a spill in South Dakota last year, too. It ended up being twice the size originally estimated: 407,400 gallons of crude oil leaked.
The way many opponents see it, spills aren’t a matter of if, but when. For these tribes, that’s a risk not worth taking.