- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Trump administration has awarded $10 million to North Dakota to help cover the $38 million tab stemming from the massive Dakota Access pipeline protest, which saw thousands of activists camp out for months on federal land.

Sen. John Hoeven, North Dakota Republican, announced Tuesday that the state would receive most of its $13.8 million request to the Justice Department’s Emergency Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Program.

“Ensuring the safety of everyone in the area during the protests was a tremendous undertaking for our law enforcement,” Mr. Hoeven said in a statement. “Considering the protestor camp was allowed to remain on federal land and the Obama administration’s decision to prolong the situation and refusal to enforce the law, it only makes sense that the federal government should shoulder a share of the cost.”

He added, “That’s why we worked so hard to bring this funding to the state and relieve some of this burden.”

North Dakota has wrangled with federal authorities over the $38 million bill since the last holdouts were cleared from the Army Corps of Engineers-managed floodplain in February as part of the $1.1 million clean-up effort.

The Obama administration had resisted calls for federal law-enforcement assistance during the protest, which kicked into high gear in August 2016 as activists tried to block construction on the final piece of the 1,172-mile, four-state project.

Dakota Access went into service June 1, although the Standing Rock Sioux has sued to stop the oil pipeline over concerns about its impact on the tribe’s water quality in the event of a leak from the pipe, which runs under Lake Oahe.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota Democrat, who has also urged the federal government to reimburse state and local costs, said Tuesday she was “very encouraged” by the Justice Department’s award.

“Throughout the protests, the federal government didn’t step in to help with the exponential costs that only continued to balloon,” she said in a statement. “I’ve been searching for every opportunity to make sure North Dakota gets reimbursed by the federal government for these costs that have weighed on our state.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected a request for a major disaster declaration in May, which was seen as a long-shot, given that the incident was human-caused.

Rob Port, a conservative radio host at WDAY-AM in Fargo, said the administration may be reluctant to get into the business of reimbursing locals, citing a recent interview with Rep. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Republican.

“He said the feds are hesitant to set a precedent whereby the federal government pays for local law enforcement costs,” Mr. Port said on his Say Anything blog. “That’s not an unreasonable concern, I suppose, but again the federal nexus here was clear. The federal government, under the Obama administration, basically helped create these costs.”

Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren has offered in interviews to reimburse the state and Morton County, which Mr. Port said would be “regrettable.”

“If Energy Transfer pays the state for the costs incurred when law enforcement had to respond to the illegal activities of these extremists, it will set a precedent whereby the energy industry is expected to pony up for the cost of being protected from criminals,” he said in an Aug. 2 post.

Local authorities made 761 arrests from August to February, nearly all for misdemeanor offenses such as trespassing on private property and blocking roads.

Last week, 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor criminal mischief, incurring a $250 fine and six months’ probation — but no jail time — after her arrest for spray-painting a bulldozer in September.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission asked Energy Transfer Partners on Monday to donate $15,000 to the state Historic Preservation Office in order to resolve a dispute over whether the company damaged Native American artifacts during construction, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide