By Michael Sainato
On September 28, MyNDNow reported that the Dakota Access Pipeline company “donated” $15 million to the State of North Dakota to pay for the debt police accrued to harass protesters and serve as security for the oil pipeline construction. “According to a press release sent by the Governor’s officer, a bill passed by the state legislature in 2017 included language saying the Governor and DES could ‘accept reimbursement in the form of land, cash, or other assets from from nonstate sources for state cost incurred relating to unlawful activity associated with the construction’ of the Dakota Access Pipeline.” The reported added that the Department of Justice provided $10 million in funds to help cover the debt.
A bill passed earlier this year in North Dakota, HB 1024, stipulated that all reimbursements received for the policing and emergency services costs are required to pay off $43 million in loans taken out by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and the State of North Dakota from the Bank of North Dakota.
North Dakota Republican House Majority Leader Al Carson said in a statement, “It’s our responsibility to protect our law enforcement, the workers and our citizens, and as a state we did that, incurring substantial debt. We are appreciative of Dakota Access, and this donation and the fact that oil is flowing through the pipeline are a testament to their commitment to our state. We are still hopeful the federal government will pick up the remaining $18 million.”
The Dakota Access Pipeline’s route through North Dakota incited protests at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in late 2016 in response to the pipeline’s reroute through the edge of the reservation, putting at risk the Native American tribe’s source of drinking water at Lake Oahe. Hundreds of Indigenous tribes descended onto the Standing Rock camp to fight for the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux and oppose the environmental risks posed by an increasing number of oil pipelines being built across the United States. By December 2016, a showing of thousands of veterans at Standing Rock pushed the Army Corps of Engineers to halt the project pending an environmental review. Once Trump took office, he rescinded that decision and the pipeline went into full operation in June 2017.
The recent payment to the State of North Dakota comes just weeks after the Dakota Access Pipeline company filed a lawsuit against several environmental organizations who have supported the Standing Rock Sioux and water protectors. In a press release, Energy Transfer Partners claimed in the lawsuit, ” that this group of co-conspirators (the “Enterprise”) manufactured and disseminated materially false and misleading information about Energy Transfer and the Dakota Access Pipeline (“DAPL”) for the purpose of fraudulently inducing donations, interfering with pipeline construction activities and damaging Energy Transfer’s critical business and financial relationships. The Complaint also alleges that the Enterprise incited, funded, and facilitated crimes and acts of terrorism to further these objectives.”
The lawsuit refers to the water protectors and environmental organizations as “eco-terrorists,” and echoes similar rhetoric that was disseminated by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department during the water protector actions at Standing Rock in late 2016. Among the propaganda from the Facebook page included a highly racist Thanksgiving Day post mocking Native Americans that was eventually taken down after the page was briefly shut down. The Dakota Access Pipeline Company created their own disinformation website, DAPLPipelineFacts.com, and has ensured its the first thing to pop up in search engines when Dakota Access Pipeline is searched.
The concerns toward the Dakota Access Pipeline of the Standing Rock Sioux and environmental groups were corroborated earlier this year by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg. He argued in his June 2017 ruling that the Army Corps of Engineers “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.” Despite this ruling, the Dakota Access Pipeline continues operation and the company behind it is still harassing protesters, and supporting a narrative to criminalize them by rewarding the police departments with “donations” for serving in their best interests.