Dakota Access Pipeline construction equipment in North Dakota. Photo: Morton County Sheriff's Department
Environment | National

Dakota Access Pipeline dragging out dispute over disturbance of tribal artifacts

The wealthy backers of the Dakota Access Pipeline have managed to drag out a dispute over the disturbance of tribal artifacts for nearly a year.

The company admitted that it disturbed the site and modified the construction path last October without informing the North Dakota Public Service Commission. A minimum fine of $15,000 --a small percentage of the $3.8 billion cost of the project -- was proposed a month later.

Yet the wealthy backers of the pipeline have refused to pay up. So the commission, apparently tired of the delay, is now offering to settle the dispute for the minimum $15,000.

"We're not interested in being hung up in procedural delays indefinitely," commissioner Julie Fedorchak said at a public meeting on Monday, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

According to the Associated Press, the settlement would require Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of the pipeline, to donate $15,000 to the State Historic Preservation Office or another agreed-upon entity. The firm would not admit any wrongdoing, the AP said.

The artifacts that were disturbed during construction last October are known as cairns, which are stone formations or stone features that tribes use to mark important places, including burial grounds and sacred sites. At the time, Fedorchak said no items were destroyed.

Just a month earlier, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe notified a federal judge of similar stone features at another construction site. But a request for an injunction to protect the area was denied and the land was bulldozed by Dakota Access over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

In a separate incident, Dakota Access is facing $400,000 in fines for removing trees and shrubs along another portion of the pipeline. The commission is supposed to hold a hearing on Thursday on that issue but the firm's attorneys are requesting a delay.

Oil started flowing through the pipeline on June 1 over the objections of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Just two weeks later, a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration approved the final portion without considering treaty rights and other issues.

The pipeline, though, remains operational. The tribes are seeking to halt the flow of oil until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes a new analysis.

Read More on the Story:
PSC proposes $15,000 penalty to Dakota Access (The Bismarck Tribune August 14, 2017)
North Dakota offers to settle with Dakota Access developer (The Associated Press August 14, 2017)
PSC holding DAPL hearing Thursday (Prairie Public Broadcasting August 14, 2017)

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