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Monke: Enough is enough with Keystone XL

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Monke: Enough is enough with Keystone XL
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

I’ve always wondered about the people who protest certain topics. Are they really that upset? Does everything rile them up that much? Does somebody pay these people to protest? Is this their job?

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Lately, every time there is political movement on the Keystone XL pipeline, there’s an environmental activist group there with a protest — though we don’t get to see it because the protests usually only take place in a coastal California city like San Francisco or Los Angeles, and, of course, Washington, D.C. Both places are so far from where the proposed pipeline would go that one has to wonder why people would protest for something they’ve likely never seen in a place they’ve likely never been nor ever plan to go.

Most of the remaining activists protesting the Keystone XL pipeline are viewed as climate change extremists who see the pipeline’s goal of shipping crude from Canadian oil sands to market in the U.S. Gulf Coast as devastating to the fight against climate change. It was even brought up by North Dakota’s Congressional delegation in interviews with The Press last week.

Unfortunately, that’s all the protesters seem to be worried about. Most of their worries aren’t centered on the real issues at the heart of the pipeline proposal, like the pipeline’s impact around Nebraska Ogallala Aquifer. Or perhaps, will it be safe or is it an underground spill-via-seepage waiting to happen like near Tioga?

On the other side, most Congressional Republicans and some Democrats are trying desperately to get President Barack Obama to give his answer on whether or not he will approve the pipeline. At this point, all they want is a hint.

The Republicans and the Canadians want this bad. They see it as another step toward North American energy independence and cooperative infrastructure, not to mention a gut punch to the Obama administration’s energy and environmental agenda.

Both of North Dakota senators — Republican John Hoeven and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp — are behind it because it makes good business sense for the state and the multi-national oil companies that operate within our borders and have a lockdown on the rights to drill for the minerals beneath it.

Though the Keystone XL would only skirt our borders, it could provide uplink opportunities for other pipelines that would come out of our state, thereby easing truck and rail traffic out of the Bakken.

The trouble is, Obama is taking so long to make his call — much to the delight of his environmentalist supporters — that one of the pipeline’s initial proponents, Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm, finally threw up his hands and basically said, “Forget it! We’ll do it with trains.” Somewhere in Omaha, Neb., smiling is BNSF Railway owner Warren Buffett, a noted Obama supporter.

Hamm pulling his support was a loss for the North Dakota oil industry.

Last Friday, however, the pipeline’s proponents got a boost when the State Department released the Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impact study, which indicated the 875-mile pipeline project would likely not have major environmental impacts on American soil. Environmentalists were quick to dismiss the findings.

“The Keystone XL pipeline creates tremendous risk of devastating spills right in our heartland by pumping a torrent of toxic tar sands oil from Canada straight through the United States,” Ross Hammond, a senior campaigner for Friends of the Earth, wrote in one of the groups many mass emails to media outlets such as The Press. “It would endanger water supplies, destroy forests and worsen climate change at an intolerable rate.”

At some point, this country has to slam the fist down on the table and say, “Enough with the nonsense. Figure this thing out one way or another!”

The approval or denial of the Keystone XL pipeline is a touchstone moment for U.S. energy and infrastructure. The trouble is, it has also turned into one of the worst nightmares for the one man whose job it is to say, “yes” or “no.”

Obama wants to be remembered as a president who improved foreign relations, created jobs and generally got things done. The trouble is, the Keystone XL is a thorn in his side.

It’s at the point where nothing Obama can do will please everyone. Much of the Democratic base’s environmentalist supporters will be in an uproar if Obama approves the pipeline. The Republicans will have yet another, “And look what Obama did now …” talking point to fall back on.

At Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Aug. 28, 2008, he said this: “And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as president: In 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.”

It’s time for Obama to live up to his words. We’re tired of writing about the Keystone XL and I’m sure you’re tired of reading about it. This topic goes around and around. Lord knows our politicians have better things to do.

Maybe it’s time for another protest. One where everyone in the country, supporter or opponent of the pipeline, holds up signs that read “Like it or not, Mr. President, it’s time for a decision.”

Monke is the managing editor of The Dickinson Press. Email him at, tweet him at monkebusiness and read his past features and columns at

Dustin Monke
Monke came to The Dickinson Press in July 2006 as the newspaper's sports editor and was hired as its managing editor in March 2013. During his tenure at The Press, Monke has won multiple awards for sports reporting, feature reporting, column writing, page design and photography. He was a key part of The Press winning the North Dakota Newspaper Association's General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards in 2009 and 2012, and oversaw The Press' Sweepstakes and General Excellence wins 2014. As the newspaper's editor, he writes an occassional Sunday column, contributes feature stories and breaking news, designs pages, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the newsroom and editorial staff.
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