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Groups Sue to Stop Keystone Oil Pipeline

August 21, 2008

Britton, SD – Farming and environmental organizations are trying to stop an oil pipeline coming down out of Canada into the Dakotas. Dakota Rural Action in South Dakota and the Dakota Resource Council in North Dakota have joined with the Natural Resources Defense Council in a lawsuit against the federal government to stop construction of the Keystone Oil Pipeline, which would bring oil extracted from the Alberta tar sands to U.S. markets.

South Dakota farmers such as Kent Moeckly are worried about water and land contamination, because of a U.S. waiver which would allow lighter-weight pipe for the project. The pipeline would cut across his farmland west of Britton in Marshall County.

"I believe it could be done safer, but the federal authorities gave them permission to thin the wall on this thing and to increase the pressure. So we have, more or less, a conspiracy by our own elected officials and others in positions of power to allow this thing to be just what the oil company wants. It's dangerous, but it allows them to get a whole bunch of volume through at our risk."

The groups are represented by Carrie La Seur with Plains Justice, an Iowa-based public interest law center. She says the lawsuit charges the U.S. State Department with failing to investigate the full health and environmental impacts of the pipeline project before a presidential permit was issued.

"There are landowners who are worried about the risks to their groundwater, their private wells, about this waiver that's been issued for pipeline safety standards. There are environmental groups and conservation groups very concerned about the global warming impacts of tar sands oil. It's three times the greenhouse gas intensity of normal gasoline. There's been only the thinnest consideration of sacred and historic sites along the route."

La Seur is asking the court for an injunction to halt construction on the pipeline until a complete environmental impact statement is finished. The pipeline's developers say that a break is very unlikely, and that if it did happen it would be manageable.

David Law/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - SD