The Sierra Club documents how the push for toxic Canadian tar sands oil threatens the health and welfare of South Dakotans. The environmental organization profiles three South Dakotans who have fought Big Oil: Kent Moeckley of Britton and Carolyn Harkness and Ed Cable of Union County.
Moeckly was a notable opponent of TransCanada's Keystone I pipeline, which is now buried under his farmland in Marshall County. When TransCanada announced the pipeline route, Moeckly and his neighbors asked TransCanada to consider alternative routes. He says an oil leak in his neighborhood's sandy, permeable soil could threaten the aquifer that feeds the local rural water system, an objection much like that curently raised by Nebraskans worried that Keystone XL could damage the Sand Hills and the massive Ogallala aquifer. TransCanada paid no attention:
Moeckly says pipeline consultants didn't even survey his land before they reported it as "low consequence" status, which allowed TransCanada to build the Keystone I through the aquifer in 2009, using thinner pipe and higher pressure than any other pipeline before it. When farmers in the area requested thicker pipe to reduce the risk of water contamination, their concerns went unheeded.
"TransCanada absolutely ignored us. They plowed on through," Moeckly says ["Toxic Tar Sands: South Dakota," Sierra Club, Nov. 2010].
TransCanada finished the pipeline last year. They left debris and dirt piles on Moeckly's land that have trapped water and left 15 acres unusable. (Where are the conservative property rights hawks speaking up for Moeckly's rights under the takings clause?)
Harkness and Cable are trying to save Union County from even worse disruption at the hands of the still-pending Hyperion refinery. This tar sands refinery would tear up thousands of acres of prime farm land and threaten the aquifer, air quality, and even the simple view of the stars at night.
Carolyn Harkness would find her farm home 300 feet from the refinery. She doesn't want to give up land that is everything to her family, her home, business, and retirement. She also sees a higher obligation to keep the refinery from tearing up Union County:
"This land belongs to God and it is our responsibility to save it for future generations. It has treated us well," she says. "We need to return the favor" [Sierra Club, Nov 2010]
Ed Cable lives three miles from the proposed refinery site and share's his neighbors' concerns about pollution that owuld ruin one of the cleanest places in the country. Cable has led the legal fight to block construction of the refinery. His group, Save Union County, has played a key role in pushing South Dakota's regulators to do something like due diligence in, if not stopping the refinery, at least making sure the Texas dreamers behind it get their enviromental ducks in a row.
Oops—did I say ducks in a tar sands story?
Moeckly, Harkness, and Cable understand that increasing our dependence on dirty foreign oil is not good for our way of life. As we see from the Keystone I pipeline, the tar sands are already damaging our fair state. We should say no to any more development of this unsustainable resource.