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Port: Dakota Access Pipeline company should never, ever pay for protest costs

Legal battles over the Dakota Access Pipeline persist, but for the time being the oil flows. The political extremists who used violence and vandalism to try and block the project's completion are gone.

But a legacy of their indefensible behavior persists. The State of North Dakota incurred roughly $38 million worth of expenses as a result of the #NoDAPL protests, and state officials are still trying to figure out how to pay for it.

The latest news is that the state applied for $13.8 million in funding from the Justice Department's Emergency Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Program in late June.

Prior to that, Gov. Doug Burgum requested that President Donald Trump, whose executive actions cleared away Obama-era obstruction of the pipeline's completion, issue a disaster declaration so that the state could receive federal aid.

The President declined, and even if every penny of the Justice Department request is met, the state will still be on the hook for over $24 million in expenses at a time when tax revenues are slim.

What's the solution? I'm not sure. Some have suggested filing suit against the organizations which organized the violent and often illegal activities. That seems like an expense path to take with a slim likelihood of victory.

Others have urged the State of North Dakota to accept an offer from Energy Transfer Partners (the company behind the pipeline) to pay for the expenses. The CEO of the company, Kelcy Warren, made this offer on my radio show and in other venues.

It was an admirable gesture of goodwill, but regrettable in precedent it could set.

Remember that the acknowledged tactic of the environmental extremists who perpetrated the #NoDAPL protests is chaos. They intend to create so many problems around these pipeline projects, so much expense for the taxpayers, that future efforts to build this sort of infrastructure

is deterred.

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.

It's like being asked to pay for the law enforcement response to someone vandalizing your home.

I understand the temptation state officials must have to take the company's money. The company made a willing offer, for one thing. It would solve a sticky fiscal issue, for another.

But it wouldn't be right.

No individual, no company, which is the victim of criminal activity should be forced to pay for the law enforcement response to that activity.

As much as it pains me to say it, it would be better if the North Dakota taxpayers took the hit.

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