Agweek: Pipeline Protesters Hurt Ordinary North Dakotans

In a new editorial, Agweek Magazine, a leading agricultural publication in the upper Midwest, captured many of the frustrations shared by farmers and ranchers affected by the month’s long protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The thoughtful commentary is careful not to dismiss those who have peacefully opposed the project, but notes that many actions have been anything but peaceful.

We understand many Americans disapprove of the project. We support their legal and moral right to oppose it through peaceful, legal protest. We live, thank goodness, in a free country. But many of the protests were neither peaceful nor legal.

The editorial goes on to highlight that farmers and ranchers in Morton County have been on the frontlines of the unlawful activity and have suffered financially as a result.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department and North Dakota Department of Agriculture say 544 Morton County households were affected by the protests. They say farmers and ranchers lost as much as $20,000 each due to delays in or inability to harvest crops, inability to haul to market, inability to get custom harvesters to the area, lost or missing livestock, cattle brought off pasture earlier than usual, vandalized equipment and farmsteads and other issues. There also are continuing problems with possible pest-infested firewood, as well as hundreds of loads of garbage left behind when the camp was cleared out.

Out-of-state protesters who descended on this rural community often did so with a complete lack of respect for area residents who wanted nothing but to continue about their normal lives.

This much is clear: Protestors, even sincere ones, often went too far, hurting “ordinary” North Dakotans who had done absolutely nothing wrong. That alienated and angered many people who had been neutral or lukewarm on the project.

In closing, the editorial board said environmental protesters would be wise to respect agriculturalists in the future before offering an optimistic outlook for the coming change of season.


Kauzlarich: Invest in American Energy, Enforce the Rule Of Law

A new op-ed by former U.S. Ambassador Richard Kauzlarich was published today in The Hill. Kauzlarich discussed how last week’s House Energy and Commerce hearing emphasizes the need to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline and invest in America’s infrastructure.

Kauzlarich says, “Regulatory oversight of such projects is important, and the United States maintains a strong tradition of enforcing the rule of law. We also have a tradition of ensuring that the voices of local communities affected by such projects are heard. Government at all levels has a responsibility to ensure the rule of law is followed to the letter of the law.”

Throughout the DAPL permitting process the concerns of local communities were addressed by both the state and federal governments and upon the issuance of permits by both entities, the permits carry the force of law and should remain enforced as such. According to Kauzlarich, “Private investment is critical for the production and distribution of U.S. energy resources. The integrity our legal and regulatory structure is critical to ensuring this investment.”

Without the government’s willingness to enforce the rule of law – America’s energy revolution could come to a halt. Thankfully, with construction proceeding on DAPL following action by the Trump Administration to adhere to Corps of Engineers’ recommendation for completion, the rule of law has been established and will ensure America sees this  important project through to completion.


A Financial Vanishing Act: The Search For Missing Donations For The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

A post from the Center for Individual Freedom highlights a question surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline protest: Where has all the money gone?

After millions of dollars poured into crowdfunding accounts online, a significant portion of that money remains unaccounted for.

According to the post, “through February 14, over $13.5 million has reportedly been raised for the protesters through at least 350 different online accounts setup on sites like GoFundMe and FundRazr.  While the list represents some of the more serious fundraising efforts, it’s estimated that upwards of 20,000 individual campaigns exist, likely equating to millions in additional income.”

With little transparency throughout the fundraising process, and no answers following an exhaustive search of charitable organizations, it remains unclear how the funds were allocated.

But after the protests cost North Dakota taxpayers more than $33 million dollars, the disappearance of the funds have raised eyebrows in Bismarck. The North Dakota Tax Authority now plans to launch an investigation if income tax forms reflective of the donations are not submitted.


North Dakota Governor Issues Emergency Evacuation Order for Protest Camps

According to a report from the Dickinson Press, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum ordered the mandatory evacuation of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters stressing the dangers of spring flooding and the need to avoid environmental damage. The report followed an official release from the Governor’s Office, and a release from Sen. John Hoeven which stated that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have a crew on site by the end of the week to assist in cleaning up the area.

The order requires the evacuation of everyone currently occupying the Corps of Engineers land along the Cannonball Rivers in Morton and Sioux Counties citing the threat from human and inorganic waste left behind by protesters who have gathered at the site for over half a year.

The waste “pose[s] a significant and increasing environmental threat to the waters of Missouri River if cleanup and removal efforts are not quickly accelerated and completed before flooding begins.”

The order follows an earlier statement from the Governor’s office which said “It is paramount for public safety, and to prevent an environmental disaster, that the camps be cleared prior to a potential spring flood. Once the floodwaters recede, the land will need to be cleaned and eventually restored to pre-protest conditions.”


Energy Subcommittee Hears Testimony from Pipeline Stakeholders and Dakota Access

Today, the Energy Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing in Washington, DC to gather information from a number of stakeholders on various energy infrastructure projects. The hearing was entitled “Modernizing Energy and Electricity Delivery Systems: Challenges and Opportunities to Promote Infrastructure Improvement and Expansion.” The committee heard from various stakeholders with vested interest in energy infrastructure projects, including members of the labor and construction community, Native American Community, electrical grid builders and operators, and pipeline builders and operators.

Pipeline projects across America were a key focus of testimony from many of the individuals on the panel and during many of the questions from the Committee. Notably, many of the half-truths, misrepresentation, and partisan politics that have pervaded pipeline projects over the past six months were addressed.

During the hearing Joey Mahmoud, Project Manager for the Dakota Access Pipeline spoke on the impact of these half-truths and misrepresentations on the Dakota Access Pipeline specifically.

Mr. Mahmoud noted that the letter of the law was followed closely throughout the approval process, including extensive Native American consultations by both the company constructing Dakota Access and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Despite following a clearly delineated legal process, a political decision was made to stall the final easement necessary to complete construction at the 11th hour in spite of the efforts of four state regulators, the work of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in conjunction with other federal agencies.

Mr. Mahmoud’s testimony concluded with an emphasis on the importance of the role of the federal government to enforce the rule of law:

“Mr. Chairman, we came to realize that even a company as large as Energy Transfer is helpless in the face of a government which will neither obey nor enforce the law. We came to realize that playing by the rules can count for little. And we came to realize that good faith efforts to reach accommodation with the many different stakeholders can be a fool’s errand when political motivation overrides the rule of law.”

Now that the government has given final easement, construction continues toward the completion of Dakota Access.


Statement Regarding Court’s Refusal to Block Work on the Dakota Access Pipeline

MAIN Coalition spokesman Craig Stevens issued the following statement in response to U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg’s decision to deny a request to issue a temporary restraining order filed on behalf of Native American tribes that would have stopped construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“We are pleased that Judge Boasberg continues his thoughtful and judicious approach towards the Dakota Access pipeline. The company and the government have worked tirelessly for more than two years to ensure all applicable laws and regulations were obeyed and the pipeline’s path followed the most culturally and environmentally sensitive course possible. It is frustrating, however, that the opposition continues to throw lawsuits against the wall in a flailing attempt to scuttle the project. Even while the proceeding was underway this afternoon, another suit hit the docket. There is no doubt that parties deserve their day in court, but how many days are warranted and at what point does this activity become unmasked for what it is: an attack on America’s energy development and the jobs that go along with it.”

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What Others Are Saying on the USACE’s Decision to Grant Final Dakota Access Easement

In addition to MAIN Coalition spokesman Craig Stevens’ statement, the following MAIN Coalition members also issued statements following the release of the final easement necessary to finish construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

Ed Wiederstein, Chairman, Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN) Coalition said, “The MAIN Coalition is pleased that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has decided to move forward with the final easement – thus ensuring the completion of the long awaited Dakota Access Pipeline. We thank the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their hard work and deliberation on this project which allowed for this important decision to be reached, and we thank the Trump Administration for moving this project forward.”

Bill Gerhard, President,  Iowa State Building and Construction Trades Council said, “The decision to grant the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline following an extensive and thorough review has been eagerly anticipated by thousands of hardworking men and women. We applaud the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their decision to issue the final easement.”

Andy Peterson, President, North Dakota Chamber of Commerce stated, “With the issuance of the final easement at Lake Oahe, our state can put the long saga of Dakota Access’ construction behind them and look forward to operation of this important pipeline project. Our state relies on a stable and lawful regulatory climate to ensure business transactions can occur unencumbered by political interference – the Corps’ engineering decision to grant this easement is a positive step forward for both the project and North Dakota.”

 Ron Ness, President, North Dakota Petroleum Council said, “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to grant the final easement to the Dakota Access Pipeline is a welcome decision for both the oil and gas industry, as well as for businesses and individuals across North Dakota. Our state has waited a long time for this final easement, even following approvals by our own Public Service Commission, and endured months of divisive and disruptive protests. We thank the Corps for their expedient decision following a directive from the Trump Administration to ensure the lawful regulatory review process is carried through to completion.”

Mike Ralston, President of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry stated, “The Iowa Association of Business and Industry thanks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for their decision to move forward with the Dakota Access Pipeline. The directive issued by the Trump Administration only a few short weeks ago sought a lawful conclusion to the long process of pipeline approval and we are thankful that we will see the completion of the project soon.”

Dawna Leitzke, Executive Director, South Dakota Petroleum and Propane Marketers Association said,  “The South Dakota Petroleum and Propane Marketers Association applauds the decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline. South Dakotans look forward to the completion of this important infrastructure project and a step toward a future of American energy independence.”


MAIN Coalition Statement Regarding Issuance of Final Easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline

MAIN Coalition spokesman Craig Stevens issued the following statement following news that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has granted the final easement needed to complete the Dakota Access pipeline:

“We are pleased that the Army Corps of Engineers has issued the final easement for work abutting and beneath Lake Oahe. The Corps has worked diligently for more than two years to ensure both the letter and spirit of the regulatory process was followed. President Trump’s expeditious action upon taking office to support energy infrastructure projects sends a clear signal to the world that the U.S. is open for business and that individuals and companies that play by the rules will not be unduly hindered by an overly-burdensome federal government. We remain hopeful that construction will be completed in a safe and timely manner and we thank the law enforcement officers at the site who work tirelessly to ensure the peace.”

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Statement Regarding Comments of Fmr. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell

Former Obama Administration Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell released a statement earlier today on Twitter about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to issue the final easement for construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline. In response, MAIN Coalition spokesman Craig Stevens issued the following statement:

“Earlier today I was stunned by Ms. Jewell’s spectacular attempt to rewrite history.  Her statement is so riddled with misinformation, it’s a disservice to the Americans who, for nearly four years, paid her salary.  It’s one thing to disagree with President Trump’s policies, it is quite another to misrepresent the actual facts of the situation.

Unlike Ms. Jewell’s claim, there is absolutely no evidence – actual or anecdotal – that the Army Corps of Engineers believed that a broader review was warranted.  In fact, the comprehensive, fact-based, 9-page memo from December 3 that Army Corps Col. John Henderson wrote to his superiors concluded with “[the Corps] intends to execute and issue the easement to Dakota Access”.  That was consistent with his memo from July 25.

This is not ambiguous.

However, less than 24 hours after Col. Henderson sent the memo up his chain of command, the Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy – an Obama Administration political appointee – issued her own memo in which she says the Army’s call for more information was her decision and she reaffirms that the Corps did everything in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law.

“I want to be clear that this decision does not alter the Army’s position that the Corps’ prior reviews and actions have comported with legal requirements.  Rather, my decision….” (Paragraph 15).

Furthermore, there is no reasonable argument that the Corps’ did not attempt to fully engage with Native tribes.  Throughout the nearly 1,000 days the Dakota Access Pipeline has been under consideration, the Corps engaged with 55 Native tribes at least 389 times.  Judge Boasberg himself articulated  in his opinion rejecting the tribe’s request for an injunction to stop the work at Lake Oahe, that the Corps “exceeded” its obligations.  And, in addition to the Army Corps’ thousand page environmental assessment, each of the four states through which the pipeline travels independently reviewed and approved the pipeline’s path.

And finally, Ms. Jewell continues the fiction that the pipeline was initially slated to go near Bismarck until met with resistance.  In his own words, Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary disputed that claim saying, “Bismarck has never been involved in that discussion. Not one policy maker, not one department head, not one city employee has ever been involved in a discussion with regards to a route north of Bismarck …. So move on from that subject. You are wrong and you are creating issues.”

Throughout this entire course of action I, and the Coalition, have strived to be forthright and honest about the facts; unfortunately, those who oppose energy development have often resorted to creating their own reality.

For Ms. Jewell to impugn the integrity of the Corps and the men and women who serve our nation is simply un-American.  As a citizen, she is certainly entitled to express her own opinion; but as a former servant of the public’s trust it should be beneath her to make up her own facts.”

 


Statement Regarding Army Corps Intent to Issue Final DAPL Easement

MAIN Coalition spokesman Craig Stevens issued the following statement in response to the notice that the Army Corps of Engineers intends to issue the final easement for the Dakota Access pipeline.

“We’re pleased that the Trump Administration has followed the counsel of the Army Corps of Engineers and the letter of law by indicating its intention to issue the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline. This action is proof-positive of President Trump’s commitment to supporting domestic energy development, including midstream infrastructure projects. Today’s action sends a strong positive signal to those individuals and companies seeking to invest in the U.S. and will help strengthen our economy and create jobs.”

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