There They Go Again: TransCanada to Destroy Archaeological, Historical Sites in OK, TX
Oklahoma Citizen’s Fannie Bates blogs about the 71 archaeological sites and 22 historic sites expected to be destroyed by the onward march of the Keystone XL pipeline through Oklahoma and Texas. According to an article in the Oklahoma University Daily (cited by Bates):
The Oklahoma Archeological Survey worked with American Resources Group and Steven W. Carothers and Associates Environmental Consultants to examine the likelihood of the proposed route damaging cultural heritage or harming the environment, survey Director Bob Brooks said…. Overall, the groups found the proposed pipeline route interfered with 88 archeological sites and 34 historic structures, according to the report given to TransCanada. Of those, 17 sites and 12 structures were considered valuable enough to recommend the company change routes….
The survey knows of over 26,000 cultural sites in the state it has to protect, but that number can be misleading, Brooks said.
“Just because there’s nothing known about those places, [it] doesn’t mean there’s nothing there,” he said.
If the survey does find artifacts a pipeline could damage, it suggests companies reroute it, he said. However, if the company decides it must follow a particular route, a team will go to the site where the cultural heritage was found and recover as much as it can before construction begins.
Bates objects that the remaining 93 sites are still valuable to Oklahomans and that a foreign company’s oil pipeline to deliver Canadian oil into international markets is not a good enough excuse for destroying them. On the bright side, at least Oklahoma got a full count. When the Keystone pipeline was being railroaded through the Dakotas, indigenous cultural and historic sites were never fully catalogued. The State Department simply “estimated” how many sites might be affected by extrapolating from numbers along small portions of the full route, leaving 77% unexamined. Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Tim Mentz had this to say in a March 19, 2008 letter to the South Dakota Historic Preservation Office:
The Standing Rock Tribal Historic Preservation Office has serious concerns regarding the Determinations of Eligibility and Determinations of Effect for the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline Project. The Department of State has not yet complied with Section 106, as they have failed to fully inventory the pipeline corridor in ND and SD and have failed to complete consultation with the SRST THPO. We formally request that you do not sign the Determinations of Eligibility and Determinations of Effect, out of respect for Section 106 and the preservation of tribal cultural sites.
In conjunction with Section 106 federal agencies are required to consult with any THPO or Indian tribe “that attaches religious and cultural significance to identified historic properties.” (Section 101 (d) (6) (3)) The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe objects to the Department of State’s contention that the necessary consultations have already occurred. The meetings the DOS is referring to were related to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and were not the government-to-government consultations required by section 106.
Despite multiple formal requests, the Department of State has not surveyed the entire corridor. Therefore, comprehensive consultation is not yet possible. Seventy-seven percent of the corridor remains unexamined and may potentially contain cultural resources that would be disturbed in the construction of the Keystone Pipeline. A full survey of the corridor and a reasonable timeline for the tribe to review and evaluate all inventories is vital.
Without THPO consultation the Department of State cannot legally move towards Determinations of Eligibility and Determinations of Effect. Attempting to bypass consultation with tribal leaders is disrespectful and unanticipated comportment from Federal Government officials. We sincerely hope the Department of State does not continue in this vein, for the sake of effective and just federal undertakings. We ask you to reject the Determinations of Eligibility and Determinations of Effect, as they are unwarranted and incomplete without proper consultation.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.
TransCanada and its buddies at state and federal agencies, up to their old tricks.