After TransCanada's Keystone I pipeline irrigated land just southeast of Amherst, South Dakota, state regulators are taking another look at the Canadian company's pre-construction promises.
Valerie Volcovici and Richard Valdmanis report for Reuters in Keystone's existing pipeline spills far more than predicted to regulators:
TransCanada Corp’s (TRP.TO) existing Keystone pipeline has leaked substantially more oil, and more often, in the United States than indicated in risk assessments the company provided to regulators before the project began operating in 2010, according to documents reviewed by Reuters. . . .
The existing 2,147-mile (3,455 km) Keystone system from Hardisty, Alberta, to the Texas coast has had three significant leaks in the United States since it began operating in 2010, including a 5,000-barrel spill this month in rural South Dakota, and two others, each about 400 barrels, in South Dakota in 2016 and North Dakota in 2011.
Before constructing the pipeline, TransCanada provided a spill risk assessment to regulators that estimated the chance of a leak of more than 50 barrels to be “not more than once every seven to 11 years over the entire length of the pipeline in the United States,” according to its South Dakota operating permit.
For South Dakota alone, where the line has leaked twice, the estimate was for a “spill no more than once every 41 years.” . . .
Lovely. Read the rest at Reuters.
What's in a name? Historical irony
While broken promises and distrust seem new to some South Dakotans affected by the pipeline spill, others in the area of the leak have a bit more experience with this sort of thing.
Therein lies the irony of Amherst, South Dakota's name.
This tweet showed up in our social media stream over the weekend:
This is Sir Jeffery Amherst, the man who supported plans to pass out blankets infected with smallpox to Native Americans.— Crimes of Britain (@crimesofbrits) November 24, 2017
Britain used biological warfare against the indigenous people as a means of extermination. pic.twitter.com/C0d8CfeO76
We wondered whether Sir Jeffery might be the namesake for Amherst, South Dakota, just northwest of TransCanada's Keystone I spill. Apparently so, in a second-hand sort of way: Amherst, South Dakota, is named after Amherst, Massachusetts, which was named after the man who was Commander-in-Chief of the British troops in America in 1758-1763.
While some journalists dispute the "smallpox in blankets" claim, documents in the British Manuscript Project, 1941-1945, undertaken by the United States Library of Congress during World War II, do support the notion that the British officer endorsed the notion of biological warfare against American Indians.
Peter d’Errico documents Amherst's correspondence about smallpox and blankets in Jeffery Amherst and Smallpox Blankets:Lord Jeffery Amherst's letters discussing germ warfare against American Indians.
The Yale Law School graduate, who consults on indigenous legal issues, wrote in a 2016 essay in Indian County Today, Amherst’s Lord Jeff Out: Lessons Learned:
Significantly, the [Amherst College] trustee statement made no pretense of any doubt about the root of the controversy, saying, “a central reason [to dislike the symbolism of Lord Jeff] has always been his suggestion, in wartime correspondence, that smallpox be used against Native Americans.”
In this, the trustees faced the historical record: letters preserved in the British Manuscript Project, between Lord Jeff and his officers—principally Colonel Henry Bouquet—discussing plans to spread smallpox among the Indians, and “to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race.”
As recently as a month ago, commentators in major sources like the New York Times and the New York Review of Books were describing the smallpox letters as “allegations” rather than fact.
It may be ironic that the Amherst College library holds a microfilm collection of the British Manuscript Project. I researched there in 2000-2001 to compile evidence of the smallpox plan and make it available on the Internet: “Jeffrey Amherst and Smallpox Blankets.” My motivation was to make good on a promise I made to Floyd Red Crow Westerman (Dakota), who asked me to “find the proof” about the smallpox plans to counter the many commentators who denied anything like that had ever happened.
Floyd told me he wanted to make a movie that would “put a knife into America’s heart and pull it out to heal America.” I think what he meant was that facing historical truths would heal America, though this would kill its illusions. Floyd passed on before he could complete this film project, but his inspiration lives in the material available to educate those who will learn.
Amherst College was named after the Town of Amherst, which was named after the general. Lord Jeff had no connection with founding the college. Yet today, when the Amherst Trustees step into the public debate about history and historical symbols, Lord Jeff can take on a new role, as an example of the way that America—or any nation—can revisit its history: not to deny it or cover it with whitewash (which amounts to the same thing), but to face it.
The trustees’ statement reflects a lesson, which will be very difficult for some people: no nation is “exceptional” in having clean hands or a “divine” mission. Every generation has a duty—and many opportunities—to study this lesson and to find ways to leave their own history enlightened by acknowledgment of their own mistakes and misdeeds.
Tearing down a historical monument or renaming a building will be significant only if it grows from learning about history. Furthermore, the deeper and more difficult issue—what to do about the historical legacies that survive in practice—can only be approached on the basis of study and learning. Without learning and critique, removing a symbol of history becomes only a way of hiding the truth.
The late Floyd Red Crow Westerman--who spurred the lawyer's search--was born on the Lake Traverse Reservation, home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. The Amherst spill is about 25 miles west of the reservation.
Photo: That Keystone I oil spill near Amherst, South Dakota, third leak in the Dakotas stretch of the pipeline in seven years.
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