Tribe Says Construction of Keystone XL Over Their Land Would be 'Act of War'

President Obama may not have to veto the Keystone XL pipeline to stop the project.

This could be an issue where state power supersedes federal authority.

A Native American tribe in South Dakota that considers House approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to be an “act of war” and a reversal of state legislative permission by the Nebraska Public Service Commission, either together or by themselves, could be enough to undo plans to build the $5.4 billion project.

The House approved the Keystone XL pipeline proposal Nov. 14. The Senate is expected to vote on the proposal Tuesday.

Senate Democrats, who had been able to block the Keystone proposal, might change sides and make this a bipartisan win for TransCanada and Republicans if only to help the re-election effort of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

The Keystone XL pipeline would run across six states, including Nebraska and South Dakota, and 1,980 miles from the tar sands of Canada to the refineries of the Gulf Coast.

Gov. Dave Heineman (R-Neb.) approved building the Keystone XL pipeline in his state in January 2013 following legislative approval.

The state’s Department of Environmental Quality signed off on the final agreement with the owner of the pipeline, TransCanada. But the state’s Public Service Commission was not consulted.

That prompted three landowners to file suit to challenge the approval process, and they won the most recent round in court.

A district court has ruled that Heineman’s approval was unconstitutional. That could mean the case will be heard by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

The justices could decide if the Nebraska Public Service Commission will be brought back into the loop and in effect will make the final decision.

Steve Meradith, the executive director of the commission, declined to comment.

Nebraska is not the only state in which the Keystone XL proposal has run into a grass-roots revolt.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission has granted approval for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline plans with 50 conditions attached.

Former Gov. Mike Rounds (R), elected to the Senate last week, is a longtime supporter of the Keystone XL project.

Rounds said in an October statement the Keystone debate was about more than energy. He said it was also an agricultural issue.

“The joyful feelings of a bountiful harvest are quickly replaced with a sense of frustration that this year’s grains are going to get piled on top of last year’s because there simply are not enough transportation options,” Rounds said in a statement. “Too many trains are tied up carrying the valuable oil from North Dakota to refineries in the South.”

However, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and other members of the Great Sioux Nation voted to oppose the 36-inch pipeline in February.

The proposed route of TransCanada’s project crosses directly through Great Sioux Nation (Oceti Sakowin) Treaty lands as defined by both the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties and within the current exterior boundaries of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation and Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.