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Dakota Access Pipeline faces a small fine for disturbing tribal site

Filed Under: Business | Environment | Law | National
More on: 2016, dakota access pipeline, democrats, elections, julie fedorchak, marlo hunte-beaubrun, native vote, north dakota, race, republicans, sacred sites, spirit lake, standing rock sioux, tmbci
     
   

Authorities in North Dakota arrested another 33 people on Veterans Day, November 11, 2016, on connection with #NoDAPL water protection efforts. Photo courtesy Morton County Sheriff's Department

The wealthy backers of the Dakota Access Pipeline are facing a small fine in connection with the disturbance of tribal artifacts at a construction site.

According to the North Dakota Public Service Commission, the firm waited too long -- 10 days to be exact -- to notify the state after stone cairns and other artifacts were uncovered last month. As a result, a minimum fine of $15,000, which represents a miniscule percentage of the pipeline's $4.8 billion cost, is being proposed in a formal complaint.

Julie Fedorchak, the chair of the commission, said the complaint alleges that Dakota Access violated two provisions of its construction order. The firm adjusted the pipeline route but did not file any certifications with the state and resumed construction on the adjusted route without approval, she said.

"Those are the certifications they are supposed to file with us before proceeding and they're supposed to get clearance with us before proceeding," Fedorchak said at a special meeting that was held in Bismarck on November 8.

The complaint proposes a "$10,000 fine for failing to obtain clearance and a $5,000 fine for failing to file .. the required certifications," Fedorchak said in reference to the two alleged violations.


Indianz.Com SoundCloud: North Dakota Public Utilities Commission Meeting November 8, 2016

Dakota Access will be able to respond to the complaint but could agree to settle it by paying the fine, Fedorchak said. Settling wouldn't be a problem -- according to an earnings call held last Wednesday, the firm is flush with $1.2 billion in cash after selling a stake in the pipeline.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission is a public agency with approval authority over infrastructure projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline. Its three members serve six-year terms and are elected by popular vote -- all three are non-Indian and all three are Republicans.

Julie Fedorchak ran for re-election and easily defeated Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, on the same day as last week's meeting. She won the position with nearly 69 percent of the vote, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State.

During the campaign, Hunte-Beaubrun, a Democrat, made an issue of the pipeline and the lack of indigenous voices on the commission. Her message clearly resonated among Native voters on her tribe's reservation -- she won nearly 71 percent of the vote in Sioux County, according to the county-by-county results. Native Americans represent nearly 81 percent of the population in the county, the largest proportion in the state.

Hunte-Beaubrun also carried Rolette County with 59 percent of the vote. Native voters represent 76 percent of the population there, which is home to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.


Democrat Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun, a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, carried just two counties, colored in blue, in her unsuccessful bid to unseat a Republican from the North Dakota Public Utilities Commission. Screenshot from North Dakota Secretary of State

But those were the only two places where Hunte-Beaubrun won the majority. Native Americans represent 54 percent of the population in Benson County, home to most of the Spirit Lake Nation, yet only 40 percent of the vote went to her, indicating that Native citizens failed to turn out in large enough numbers there.

Elsewhere, Fedorchak easily out-polled Hunte-Beaubrun in a state where Native Americans represent just 5.5 percent of the population. In Morton County -- where the #NoDAPL water protector camps are located and where Native people only make up 4 percent of the population -- the Republican won nearly 74 percent of the vote.

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