Local residents who live in areas affected by the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline and those whose jobs were deleteriously impacted after President Biden killed the project are expressing their heartbreak, with one saying bitterly of the Biden administration, “They are playing with our lives.”
Gaylord Lincoln, a South Dakota semiretired mechanic, recently spoke to The Washington Examiner. He said bluntly to the Biden administration, “Come down here. See the destruction you caused. See the pain of job loss. You took our chance to have a decent life with a stroke of the pen. It’s all bullsh** in Washington. They are playing with our lives.”
In January 2020, the Trump administration approved a right-of-way permitting the $8 billion Keystone XL oil sands pipeline to be built across 46 miles of land controlled by the federal government, taking a giant step toward completing the full construction of the pipeline.
As The Associated Press noted, the 1,200 mile pipeline had already garnered the requisite permits from states and localities to be built, but until the right-of-way the section in Montana controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had been off-limits.
The Keystone pipeline was built in June 2010, traveling over 2,100 miles from Hardisty, Alberta, in Canada through Steele City, Nebraska, to Wood River Refinery in Roxana, Illinois, and Patoka Oil Terminal near Patoka, Illinois. In 2011, the Keystone-Cushing extension (Phase II) was completed, running almost 300 miles from Steele City to Cushing, Oklahoma. In January 2014, Phase III was completed, running roughly 500 miles from Cushing to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas. In 2016, a lateral pipeline was added traveling to Houston, Texas.
The Keystone XL pipeline connects Hardisty to Steel City using the shorter route running through Montana and uses a larger diameter pipe, running through Baker, Montana.
The Senate passed a bill approving the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline in January 2015; the House followed suit in February 2015. President Obama vetoed the bill on February 24, 2015, stating that it “attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest.”
“In South Dakota, the pipeline would have run diagonally across nine counties in the state, from the northwestern corner to Tripp County in south-central South Dakota,” the Examiner pointed out. “Despite claims it is on sacred ground, the proposed pipeline would not run directly through any Native American reservations in the state but would have bordered the Cheyenne River Reservations to the south and Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations to the north.”
For months, Laurie Cox, who owns the Stroppel Hotel in Midland, South Dakota, a hotel she and her husband bought last September, had been feeding the welders, carpenters, and union laborers staying at her hotel and working on the pipeline. She told the Examiner that the day of President Biden’s inauguration, “I had a real gut-sinking feeling and was watching little snips of the news and Facebook to see what was going to happen after the inauguration.” She added that when Biden later announced he was killing the pipeline, “It hit me like a ton of bricks. I was in shock for three days.”
Cox said of the workers she had cared for, “They said their bosses sat them down and said, ‘The area is locked up, and we’ve all got to go home.’ I tried to choke back my tears because they were still packing up, and their families still had to be told, and the last thing they needed was an innkeeper sitting here crying on them.”
Of her own financial predicament, she stated, “How could somebody, with a swipe of a pen, destroy not only thousands of jobs but thousands of businesses?”
One woman who owns a truck stop in the tiny town of Milesville said that in 2008, TC Energy, then called TransCanada Corp., asked if she would work with them. She prepared for what she thought would be a steady stream of pipeline workers, but the Obama administration blocked the pipeline. After former President Trump was elected, she and her husband updated the stop and invested in the Kampgrounds of America with the prospect of workers wanting to stay there.
But now, she says, “Anything Trump has done, [Biden] wants to undo. They are totally turning the tables on us.” She added, “I do not want to be the ‘Hatfields and the McCoys,’ and I don’t want us to be like the North and the South. … You’re a Republican, and you’re a Democrat, so we’re going to war against you. I don’t want that. The way it is now, if you’re a Republican, they’re going to cut your head off.”