Noem: Tribes' checkpoints dispute not just about coronavirus

(KOTA TV)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says that her stance against Native American tribes operating coronavirus checkpoints on federal and state highways isn’t just about the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Its also about setting “precedent” on tribes’ ability to shut down traffic in other situations.

As construction related to the Keystone XL pipeline begins in South Dakota, the checkpoints add tension to an already-rocky relationship between the Republican governor and tribes that have been outspoken opponents of the pipeline.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which has set up coronavirus checkpoints, does not allow vehicles from oil companies to pass through their land.

The Canadian company has built the first piece of the disputed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline across the U.S. border and started work on labor camps in Montana and South Dakota.

However, Calgary-based TC Energy has not resolved a recent courtroom setback that cancelled a key permit and would make it much harder to complete the $8 billion project. The 1,200-mile (1,900-kilometer) pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska was stalled for much of the past decade before President Donald Trump was elected and began trying to push it through to completion.

Environmentalists and Native American tribes are bitterly opposed to it because of worries over oil spills and that burning the fuel would make climate change worse.