North Dakota officials slam feds on protest cost
By JAMES MacPHERSON
and BLAKE NICHOLSON
BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota leaders agreed Tuesday to borrow an additional $4 million to cover the escalating costs of policing protests at the Dakota Access pipeline and slammed the federal government for not chipping in part of the funding.
The state has now run up a $10 million line of credit for law enforcement costs after an emergency spending panel headed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple voted to borrow the additional funds from the state-owned Bank of North Dakota.
Dalrymple said officials have asked for contributions from the federal government, the pipeline company, an American Indian tribe, “and any entity we can think of.” So far, North Dakota and the local governments it backs have shouldered most of the law enforcement expenses — even paying for officers from other states that have assisted North Dakota during the protests.
More than 400 people have been arrested since August at the North Dakota portion of the pipeline, which also crosses through South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.
American Indians and others who oppose the construction of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners’ $3.8 billion pipeline have set up an encampment on U.S. Army Corp of Engineers land without a permit; federal officials have said they wouldn’t evict them due to free speech reasons. Opponents worry about potential effects on drinking water on the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation and farther downstream on the Missouri River, as well as destruction of cultural artifacts, including burial sites.
House Majority Leader Al Carlson called the lack of federal support “very disturbing” but said the state “will always step up for safety.”
“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am at the lack of support from the Obama administration on an issue that’s clearly a federal issue,” Carlson said.
The U.S. Justice Department and the pipeline company did not immediately respond to email questions from The Associated Press about the state’s request for additional money. A call to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe was not immediately returned.
Energy Transfer Partners has not given the state any money for the protest response. However, Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong said the pipeline developer has provided a security helicopter that has aided law enforcement and has agreed to use it for medivac services if any officers or protesters sustain serious injuries.
Dalrymple issued an emergency declaration in August to cover law enforcement expenses related to protests. The state’s Emergency Commission borrowed $6 million from the state-owned Bank of North Dakota in September.
Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, the leader of the state’s National Guard, said about $8 million has been spent to date on law enforcement and other costs related to the protests, centered in south-central North Dakota.
Morton County said it has spent an additional $3 million in extra costs. The county may apply for reimbursement from the state.
The state of North Dakota also is using the emergency appropriations to pay the costs of law officers from other states that have helped with the protest response through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a national system for sharing personnel during a state of emergency.
The requesting state is obligated to reimburse responding agencies for reasonable expenses except workers compensation claims, according to the National Emergency Management Association.
State and local officers from South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Nebraska, Wyoming and Ohio have come to the aid of North Dakota. North Dakota’s Department of Emergency Services isn’t releasing the number of officers, citing “operational security.”
Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said recently that the out-of-state officers as well as those brought in from around North Dakota are needed so officers get needed breaks “so we can maintain a presence in that area.” The sharing of officers hasn’t been well-received in some states, including Minnesota, however. Hundreds of people gathered in the Twin Cities last week to call for the withdrawal of Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies.