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State-Tribal Relations Letter Demands More Comment Time On Keystone XL

Olivia Reingold
Yellowstone Public Radio
A comment box from the U.S. State Department for thoughts on an recently updated environmental draft for the Keystone XL pipeline on October 29, 2019.

The State-Tribal Relations Committee is pressing Montana’s Congressional delegation to do more to increase public input and tribal consultation on the Keystone XL pipeline. The move comes as the end of the public comment period for a recently updated environmental statement nears.

The State-Tribal Relations Committee unanimously adopted a motion Monday to write a letter demanding a more meaningful public comments process on the updated Keystone XL pipeline’s draft environmental impact statement. The letter asks Montana’s Congressional delegation to put pressure on the State Department, which controls the 45-day public comment period that is scheduled to end November 18.

There’s been one public meeting to discuss the draft, held late last month in Billings.

That’s not good enough, according to the letter by the State-Tribal Relations Committee, a bipartisan body of legislators that act as liaisons between the state and tribal governments. It says people who attended didn’t have enough of a chance to openly engage in dialogue and provide input. 

Credit State-Tribal Relations Committee
The letter sent by the State-Tribal Relations Committee.

It also says tribal consultation has fallen short for the Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Tribes, which the pipeline would nearly come in contact with.

Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte and Republican Senator Steve Daines say they look forward to speaking with committee members.

A spokesperson for Democratic Senator Jon Tester says the State Department should solicit further feedback from tribal leaders and the public.

Olivia Reingold is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for America corps member.