The browser or device you are using is out of date. It has known security flaws and a limited feature set. You will not see all the features of some websites. Please update your browser. A list of the most popular browsers can be found below.
According to TransCanada, all 539 Montanans who own land set to be crossed by the pipeline agreed to easements and signed confidentiality agreements. Shawn Howard, a company spokesman, said TransCanada would be "responsible for costs" if something went wrong.
But several Montana farmers and ranchers whose land the pipeline would cross said they didn't support the project but felt powerless to stand in its way. One farmer who declined to give his name said that he tried criticizing the pipeline and was shunned by his community, costing him business.
Southeastern Montana's Tongue River valley, a region of bluffs and badlands, has become a rallying ground for opposition to a railroad that would move another carbon-rich fuel, coal. There, some ranchers and farmers who typically support mining have joined with Native Americans and environmentalists to oppose construction of a 42-mile railway through one of the few river valleys in the state not lined with track.
"I don't call myself an environmentalist, and if it's of benefit to the country, I have no problem with that. But my concern is, is it going to wreck this area?" said Adam Borntreger, 38, who lives in a pastoral Amish community in Ashland on the banks of the Tongue River.
His house, on a dirt road used by horse-drawn carts, is right in the path of the proposed railroad, which would haul coal to be burned to generate electricity, which Borntreger doesn't use.
"The people who live here," said his brother David Borntreger, 46, "have to worry about their home lives' being destroyed."
Alexis Bonogofsky, who works for the National Wildlife Federation and farms not far from the Tongue River, helped organize high-profile protests this fall against the railroad and a proposed mine in nearby Otter Creek.
"These things could affect land that has been owned by generations of ranchers, that Native Americans have always called home," Bonogofsky said. "These are local issues."
At a gas station on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, tribe member Leslie Stump criticized companies that applied to the federal Surface Transportation Board in 2012 for permission to build the railroad.
"It's going to hurt our hunting grounds, maybe affect our water," said Stump, 30, from the back of a horse. "Cheyennes, we fought for this land. Our elders, they don't want to ruin the land."
Environmentalists fear that the railroad could make inevitable the mining of Otter Creek. Kim Link, a spokeswoman for Arch Coal, a St. Louis, Mo., company that hopes to mine the creek, said the project would be in harmony with the land.
"Development of the Otter Creek coal reserves would be done in a responsible manner," she said.
With a view of the Tongue River valley to his west and the nearby path set to be cut by Keystone to the east, Wade Sikorski, from Baker, said the two projects are related.
"I think people are taking a very short view on how these will impact this area," said Sikorski, 57, who wrote a book criticizing the projects and farms land his great-grandfather homesteaded in 1911. "If we stop them, we can save ourselves and maybe the world."
The application to build the railroad remains under review.
Six hundred miles to the west, in the burly forests of the Bitterroot Mountains, environmentalists, Native Americans, business owners and local residents fought the trucking of huge mining equipment headed north to the tar sands in Canada.
Scores of three-story-tall, 250-foot-long modules called megaloads were to be rolled along a twisting two-lane highway through the Lolo National Forest. Before an Idaho judge ruled in September to stop the shipments, some in Montana howled over the precedent they would set for the land.
"The concern is, once you open up the door, what else are they going to bring up that will violate the earth?" said Brock Conway, 45, a member of the Blackfeet Indian tribe. He protested the megaloads by marching in Montana and traveling to New York City to sing traditional songs in front of the United Nations building.
Susan Estep, a Missoula resident, helped file a lawsuit forcing the megaloads to take a different route.
"The industrialization of any wild and scenic place," she said, "goes against the aesthetic of the West."
The detour threads through other parts of Oregon, Idaho and Montana before ending in Alberta. Protesters gathered last week at the megaloads' starting point in Oregon.