BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The North Dakota Attorney General’s Office has extended an agreement with Dakota Access LLC, which still owns about 7,000 acres of ranchland along the Dakota Access Pipeline.
One year after most protesters left the Morton County area, the office has said it will continue to review whether the company’s ranch ownership complies with North Dakota’s anti-corporate farming law. Corporations and limited liability companies are banned from owning or leasing farmland and ranchland, with some exceptions.
The state Attorney General’s Office recently signed a six-month extension of an interim agreement with the company, the Bismarck Tribune reported .
Dakota Access LLC purchased land in the Cannonball Ranch north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation when demonstrations were ongoing in 2016 to provide safety to workers. The property includes the area where the Standing Rock tribe alleges the company bulldozed burials and other sacred sites. The company denies these allegations.
Dakota Access LLC planned to transfer ownership after the pipeline’s construction was completed, according to its attorney, Lawrence Bender. The pipeline from the Bakken to Illinois has been in service since June.
In October 2016, Bender sent a letter to the Attorney General’s Office that cited incidents of protesters trespassing and threatening workers. One month later, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem announced that the company’s purchase was “temporarily necessary” to provide a safer work environment in light of civil disturbances near construction areas.
Stenehjem’s office made an agreement with the company that reserved the state’s right to file a future lawsuit to enforce corporate farming laws. The agreement was going to expire Dec. 31, 2017, but was extended through June 30, 2018.
The company could face a civil fine of up to $100,000 if found in violation of corporate farming laws.
The extension states that the company is in the process of divesting its property. It also mandates the company to file periodic status reports to the state.
Bender and the company didn’t respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.
Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com
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