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All Risk No Reward Coalition Forms to Oppose Keystone XL

Nebraska rancher and lifelong Republican Randy Thompson understands what South Dakota Republicans (and Senator Tim Johnson) refuse to admit: the Keystone XL pipeline is all risk and no reward:

The risks to our country’s freshwater, and the risks to our land, are ammunition enough for the President to reject the pipeline.

But the fact that the tar sands oil will be exported to countries like China and Venezuela, and won’t even stay in the U.S. puts me over the edge — because it means that American citizens like me would be taking on all of the risk so that Big Oil and foreign countries could get the reward [Randy Thompson, "All Risk, No Reward," York (NE) News Times, 2013.04.06].

I couldn't agree more, Randy!

Thompson is thus chairing the new All Risk No Reward Coalition, which is telling President Obama not to socialize TransCanada's risks just to boost Big Oil's profits.

Dakota Rural Action has joined the All Risk No Reward Coalition. Unlike the Republican Party, they've been fighting to protect South Dakota landowner rights from TransCanada's predations from the beginning. Now they want to highlight both the environmental risks and the financial costs South Dakotans will bear if Keystone XL blows a gasket:

The All Risk and No Reward Coalition focuses on the risks to landowners, water, and the environment posed by the Keystone XL pipeline – risks that are on display in recent Arkansas tar sands spill. The Pegasus pipeline spilled over 80,000 gallons of diluted bitumen, the harsh chemical-ridden substance that will be flowing through the Keystone XL pipeline. But while the Arkansas spill happened in a well-populated area with quick emergency response teams available, any spill that will occur in South Dakota will not have that kind of support.

Because the IRS does not consider diluted bitumen to be oil, companies transporting tar sands oil are exempt from paying into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. The tax-free tar sands product flowing through South Dakota in the Keystone XL pipeline would be exempt from paying into the fund which is used to pay for oil spills. This means South Dakotans will have to rely on taxpayer dollars to pay for a spill, because the state legislature has declined to require a bond from TransCanada for the pipeline [Dakota Rural Action, press release, 2013.04.08].

Now TransCanada might be nice like Exxon and pay for the cleanup of a Keystone XL tar sands spill anyway... but should we take that chance? Should we let TransCanada lay that risk on us before we've change federal tax law and state bonding law to hold them accountable?

The Keystone XL pipeline is essentially corporate welfare. We take a whole lot of risk off TransCanada's (and Canada's!) shoulders, we don't charge them for the favor, they increase their profits, and we get no lasting benefits in return. Even Republicans should recognize that's a bad deal for South Dakota.

Related: The Oglala Sioux Tribe passed a resolution March 26 reaffirming its commitment to stopping the Keystone XL pipeline "from crossing the Mni Wiconi Water Line, any part of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and any and all 1851 and 1868 treaty lands." An organization called Owe Aku International is holding the Moccasins on the Ground Tour of Resistance, which brought over 300 activists to Manderson last month for training in direct action techniques to stop Keystone XL construction. Talli Nauman reports that another Moccasins on the Ground training took place near Yankton (Lake Andes, actually) last weekend, and a third is shaping up for Eagle Butte later this month.


  1. Douglas Wiken 2013.04.08

    My guess is that all the tribes are hoping for is some kind of payment that is a legal alternative to a bribe and their ecological concern will turn into hot sailboat fuel.

  2. Donald Pay 2013.04.08

    My experience with the tribes on these big environmental issues tells me Wiken is wrong. I think the tribes are being straight forward, and not seeking anything other than protection for the environment, especially water resources, and standing up for their treaty rights. There is a lot of grassroots effort in the native communities from Canada to the Gulf on this issue. If Kerry is dumb enough to approve the pipeline, it could lead to a "cowboy and Indian alliance" similar to others we've had in the past on these sorts of issues.

  3. larry kurtz 2013.04.08

    Thank you, Don. You said that far kinder and gentler than I would have done. Geez, Doug.

  4. Douglas Wiken 2013.04.08

    Perhaps my cynicism is misplaced, but, it may be appropriate back to the Lewis and Clark days when anything of that crew that wasn't locked down was stolen.

  5. larry kurtz 2013.04.09

    Meeting tomorrow in Vermillion: "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and National Park Service (NPS) worked collaboratively to develop a draft environmental impact statement and land protection plan for two large conservation areas along the Missouri River in Northeast Nebraska and South Dakota. The agencies are seeking public comment on the draft plan for the Niobrara Confluence and Ponca Bluffs Conservation Areas."

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