WANBLEE, S.D. -- Several dozen Native Americans blockaded two large trucks headed to Canadian oil fields in a six-hour standoff Monday in Wanblee.
Debra White Plume, an opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline project and one of the people who formed the blockade, said she heard Monday morning that two trucks with the words "Calgary, Alberta, Canada" on the sides were driving through the Pine Ridge Reservation. She said she got to Wanblee at about 10 a.m., blocked the road with a group of other Natives and asked the truck drivers why they were going through the reservation.
The truckers said their company was saving money by driving through the Pine Ridge, White Plume said. The truckers said they were heading to an oil field in Canada, and the trucks contained empty containers for drinking water, White Plume said.
She said she and four other people, including her husband, Alex, were arrested for disorderly conduct at about 4:30 p.m. and released about three hours later.
The truckers continued under police escort to Kadoka.
A Canadian company that wants to build a 1,700-mile oil pipeline through the U.S. heartland to the Texas Gulf Coast, TransCanada will be ready within weeks to submit plans for a new route that avoids the environmentally sensitive Nebraska Sandhills region, an executive said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, TransCanada plans to begin construction on the pipeline's southern tier from Cushing, Okla., to Texas by late spring or early summer, said Alex Pourbaix, president of the company's energy and oil pipelines division.
The contentious pipeline is designed to take oil from Canada's tar sands region in Alberta to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast. The northern portion requires U.S. State Department approval because it crosses an international border, while the southern tier will need standard federal permits that Pourbaix believes will be ready shortly.
The State Department, backed by President Barack Obama, recently rejected the longer project, saying TransCanada needed to find a route that would avoid the Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer, a key water source for eight states. At the time, Obama encouraged TransCanada to pursue the southern portion of the pipeline that would, in the short term, relieve a bottleneck of crude at Midwestern refineries.
Pourbaix said that part of the pipeline would be ready by 2013.