Frustrated governor says Dakota Access pipeline delay serves 'no purpose'
MANDAN, N.D. - Gov. Jack Dalrymple expressed frustration Friday, Nov. 18, at the federal government's inaction on the Dakota Access Pipeline and said he's continuing to push the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to resolve the situation.
MANDAN, N.D. - Gov. Jack Dalrymple expressed frustration Friday, Nov. 18, at the federal government’s inaction on the Dakota Access Pipeline and said he’s continuing to push the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to resolve the situation.
“The frustration is that delaying has no purpose. It does no good whatsoever. We continue to make that argument to the federal government,” Dalrymple said. “We are hopeful that they will at some point realize that in order to resolve this situation in total, we have to have a decision on the easement.”
A news conference hosted by Dalrymple and law enforcement officials Friday came after protests escalated this week in Bismarck and Mandan and a day after a state legislator posted a video plea asking for leaders to be more visible about their efforts to resolve the protests.
Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, said in a video post he’s fed up with the protests that have continued since mid-August and has heard some residents question whether the governor who retires next month has “checked out.”
“Please show us that you’re not checked out,” Becker said. “Please show us what’s going on.”
Dalrymple said he has called on Corps Brigadier Gen. Scott Spellmon and other Corps officials to act quickly to make a decision about the Dakota Access easement that’s still under review. The Corps announced Monday that additional discussion with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is necessary before the agency will make a decision on the Lake Oahe crossing north of the reservation, but a timeline for the process has not been announced.
“We believe this is an unnecessary and problematic delay,” Dalrymple said. “It does nothing but continue to prolong the difficulty that we have as a state and as counties dealing with this great challenge.”
Maj. Kamil Sztalkoper, deputy director for public affairs for the Corps, said Friday the agency has not scheduled a meeting with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe since inviting the tribe on Monday to participate in additional discussion related to the pipeline easement. Federal agencies did hold a tribal consultation with Standing Rock and other tribes on Thursday in Rapid City, S.D., that was previously scheduled.
Dalrymple said he’s also pressing the Corps to resolve the issue of allowing pipeline opponents to camp without a permit on Corps property near the Cannonball River. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department released aerial photos Friday that show that temporary and permanent structures have been illegally constructed on Corps land.
Those camped on Corps-managed land are encouraged to relocate to land on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation that has been provided for the camp, Sztalkoper said.
“Those who remain on Corps property are there at their own risk and that risk will increase as temperatures drop and snow begins to accumulate,” he said.
In addition, Dalrymple said he’s continuing to press for the federal government to help with additional law enforcement and financial assistance.
“Thus far, I’m sorry to report, the burden has fallen almost entirely on the state and local counties,” Dalrymple said.
Law enforcement officers addressed a recent increase in pro-law enforcement demonstrators who have countered anti-pipeline demonstrations in Bismarck and Mandan. Bismarck Police Chief Dan Donlin said officers appreciate that support, but encouraged people to refrain from saying or doing anything that could escalate the protests.
“We want to ensure that you don’t become part of the problem at any protest site,” Donlin said.
In an interview with Forum News Service, Becker said one of his concerns that prompted him to post the video is that residents who are frustrated may start taking matters into their own hands.
“People are getting agitated right now with the perception that there’s no leadership,” Becker said.
U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Friday he is working with federal and state officials to apply for law enforcement funding through a Department of Justice reserve fund.
In addition, Hoeven said he’s working to secure funding through the Department of Homeland Security that is designated for countering violent extremism and emerging threats and continuing to push for additional federal law enforcement personnel.
“We’re going to keep working this,” Hoeven said. “We need to make sure we have enough law enforcement so people feel safe and protected.”
U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., has gotten support from Senate Democrats to secure federal funding but needs support from Senate Republicans, and is working with Hoeven and the governor to seek federal funding, according to Heitkamp’s office.
Hoeven, Heitkamp and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., have all said they’re continuing to push the Corps to make a decision on the easement.
Hoeven, the only member of the delegation available for an interview Friday, said he thinks the Corps is ready to issue an easement but the Obama administration is holding them up. Hoeven said he’s also reached out to the Trump administration and said he believes “they’ll provide that easement right away.”
The state cost to respond to protests was estimated to be $10.9 million as of Nov. 9 and expected to keep growing.
Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access LLC, has made public statements about the possibility of the company reimbursing North Dakota for those costs.
Company spokeswoman Vicki Anderson Granado said Energy Transfer executives made a verbal offer to Gov. Dalrymple to reimburse the state.
However, Dalrymple said Friday he has not received any such offer in his office.
Jeff Zent, a spokesman for the governor, said he’s not sure if there’s a legal mechanism that would allow the state to receive a reimbursement from the company.
Breakdown of protest-related costs Out-of-state law enforcement, $3.3 million
Law enforcement from ND cities and counties, excluding Morton County, $2.8 million
North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, $1.3 million
North Dakota National Guard, $1 million
North Dakota Highway Patrol, $1.4 million
Other state agencies, $1.1 million
(Game and Fish, Attorney General, Parks and Recreation, Departments of Health and Corrections)
Source: North Dakota Department of Emergency Services estimates as of Nov. 9