Word of President Donald Trump’s decision to speed development of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, quickly reached Standing Rock protesters who responded in three words: Bring it on.
“He told us we have to stay here,” said protester Jesse Roods, of Hardin. “That’s what he did. People want to stay and resist more.”
President Trump's announcement divided Montanans. Statewide office holders remained committed to Keystone XL. Counties along Keystone's proposed route welcomed a potential property tax boost from the pipeline. Roods and others promised to fight Keystone and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
One of the faces of Standing Rock, Roods has been at the Standing Rock protest site in North Dakota for months, weathering some of the coldest temperatures of the year since December. He said Tuesday the protesters would take what they’ve learned from Standing Rock and apply it to Keystone XL, the site of which is about a two-hour drive from Standing Rock.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would cross 284 miles of Montana, more than any other state. The project didn’t draw much attention along the proposed pipeline route before former President Barack Obama rejected it in 2015. There will be protests now, said Sonny Wayne, who lives on the Fort Peck Reservation.
Wayne has been protesting at Standing Rock, and he vowed to bring the protest home with him.
“What I’ve learned is that nobody ever knows anything about it. They never knew here until it was too late,” Wayne said. “Hopefully at Standing Rock, we’ve brought attention and awareness because every pipeline is eventually going to break.”
There are communities along the Keystone route that welcomed Trump’s action Tuesday. In Prairie County, taxes collected from Keystone would help keep the county's medical center operating, provide money for emergency services and public schools said Lon Rukoff, a county planning board member.
The pipeline would be the biggest boost for government services ever, the rancher said.
“Our tax revenue is somewhere around $3.5 million. Keystone would not quite triple it,” Rukoff said. “We would go from $3.5 million to $8.5 to $9 million.”
Rukoff said the tax dollars from Keystone could be even more. The $8.5 million estimate was based on what building the pipeline would have cost five years ago. An updated estimate would likely show increased cost.
In next door McCone County, rancher Darrel Garoutte said people would be pleased with the tax money Keystone would bring, assuming Trans Canada still wants the pipeline built, but he said there were bigger issues.
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“I’m sure the majority of the people in McCone County are in favor of this because they see the tax money and the rural electric company sees it as added income, without much else in the county,” Garoutte said. “They don’t seem to worry about the taking of someone else’s land arbitrarily as a bad thing.”
Garoutte spent years negotiating a payment for the section of his land Keystone would pass beneath. It was either negotiate or face a much lower price set through eminent domain, he said.
Trump’s announcement raised more questions for Garoutte, like what would come of the Keystone pipe stacked like logs in North Dakota waiting to go into the ground. That pipe came from India. Trump indicated the project needed U.S. steel to be built with federal approval.
Politically, Montana elected officials, regardless of party, have always supported Keystone. Montana Attorney General Tim Fox was one of six AGs to sue the federal government after former President Obama rejected the Keystone XL proposal.
Montana's U.S. Senators reiterated support for Kestyone on Tuesday. The state divide on Keystone has centered on people supporting pipeline jobs versus those fearing the worst for the environment.
Two oil pipelines have spilled 70,000 barrels of oil into Montana's Yellowstone River in the last six years, raising concerns about federal regulations.
Lawmakers have sided with jobs.
“I look forward to seeing a Keystone Pipeline that respects private property rights, meets the highest safety standards and uses American materials and labor,” said U.S. Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat. “Building the Keystone Pipeline will create good-paying jobs. It's one piece of a responsible energy future in Montana — one that also harnesses renewable energy jobs, saves money and addresses the growing threats of our changing climate.”
Both Tester and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock have supported Keystone’s development, even as nationally the Democratic Party opposed the pipeline's development. Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee used Trump’s executive order as springboard for launching a petition to “fight against climate change.”
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican, wrote Trump last month, asking that Keystone be revived. Daines issued a press release Tuesday complete with supporting comments from the Montana Contractors Association and Montana Chamber of Commerce.
“The Keystone XL pipeline will create good-paying Montana union and tribal jobs,” Daines stated. “After years of talk and political nonsense, I couldn’t be more thrilled that President Trump has heeded my call to move forward construction of this project.”
Ryan Zinke, Montana’s lone congressman, now awaiting confirmation to become head of the Department of Interior, has previously voiced his support for Keystone, also.