Governor calls on feds to maintain ‘peace and order’ along construction site for Dakota Access
MORTON COUNTY, N.D. - As Dakota Access Pipeline opponents shut down work Tuesday, Sept. 13, at multiple job sites, North Dakota's governor called for federal assistance to maintain peace and public safety.
MORTON COUNTY, N.D. – As Dakota Access Pipeline opponents shut down work Tuesday, Sept. 13, at multiple job sites, North Dakota’s governor called for federal assistance to maintain peace and public safety.
“With a decision on the pipeline delayed indefinitely, the federal government shares in the responsibility of ensuring that peace and order are maintained,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in a statement.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Office arrested 22 people at a Dakota Access construction site more than 80 miles northwest from the main protest site, including two people who bound themselves to equipment.
Workers, who left the area when protesters arrived, are not only afraid for their safety, but also worry about the safety of protesters in the construction zone, said Steve Cortina, an organizer with the Laborers International Union of North America.
The union said work was shut down at multiple sites in Morton and Mercer counties Tuesday and the stoppages are affecting about 300 union members in North Dakota.
“They just want to go out there and work,” Cortina said. “They do want to earn a decent living.”
Dalrymple said the announcement last Friday from three federal agencies to temporarily pause construction on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation has “extended indefinitely the period of time necessary to bring the issue to a resolution.”
He said he spoke Tuesday with White House officials to press for federal assistance, both personnel and financial support. North Dakota has so far spent $1.8 million on law enforcement and other costs related to the pipeline protests, Dalrymple said.
Meanwhile, the company behind the pipeline released its first public statements Tuesday since the Corps, Department of Justice and Department of Interior paused construction on Corps land under and bordering Lake Oahe, a dammed section of the Missouri River.
Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren told employees in a memo that was released to the media the company remains committed to completing the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline and urged employees to contact their elected representatives about the project.
“Remind them that the company fully complied with the regulatory process and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a nationwide permit and other essential permits for our work,” Warren wrote.
The 1,172-mile pipeline is more than 60 percent complete and the company has so far spent $1.6 billion on equipment, materials and workforce, Warren wrote. The project is scheduled to be in service by the end of the year.
The memo does not say whether the company plans to voluntarily halt construction in North Dakota 20 miles east and west of Lake Oahe, as requested by the federal agencies.
In response to Warren’s memo, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said it will continue exploring all legal, legislative and administrative options to stop Dakota Access construction.
“It is unfortunate that the corporate world chooses to ignore the millions of people and hundreds of tribal nations who stand in opposition to the destruction of our lands, resources, waters and sacred sites,” Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement. “Our fight isn’t over until there is permanent protection of our people and resources from the pipeline.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the Corps in federal court over its decision to issue a permit to cross Lake Oahe, arguing the agency failed to properly consult the tribe and consider the pipeline’s impact on sacred sites. Although a federal judge sided with the Corps and denied the tribe’s request for an injunction on Friday, the federal agencies said the Corps is now determining whether it needs to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the permit.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters during a press briefing on Monday that the announcement from the federal agencies was “based on their own judgment at the Department of Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers.”
“I can't speak to the discussions that they may have had with the White House, but this is ultimately their decision,” Earnest said. “And they made this decision to ensure that the interest and concerns of everybody who was affected by the construction of this project were properly taken into account.”
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said Tuesday she and other leaders are trying to get more information from the Corps about what the process will be and a timeline to make a final resolution.
“Otherwise this is in limbo,” Heitkamp said. “We don’t know how long that limbo is going to last and we don’t know how long this is going to be carried out.”
The 22 arrests Tuesday represented the highest number of people arrested in one day since protest activities began about a month ago, bringing the total number of arrests to 60.
About 50 officers, many wearing helmets and face shields, responded to a Dakota Access construction site near Glen Ullin about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, the Morton County Sheriff’s Office said.
Twenty protesters were arrested on suspicion of criminal trespass and two, who were bound to equipment, were arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and hindering law enforcement, the sheriff’s office said.
Protest organizers said in a statement “these non-violent direct actions are part of a long-term commitment to prevent the contested DAPL pipeline from entering into the ground.”
Also Tuesday, Energy Transfer Partners worked with the sheriff’s office to remove construction equipment that was damaged last week by protesters near State Highway 6.
Across the country, thousands of people participated in more than 200 rallies to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in a national day of action to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to CREDO Action, a network of activists.