Opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline frequently encountered a heavy law enforcement presence in North Dakota. Photo: Dark Sevier

North Dakota secures $10 million in federal funds to pay for #NoDAPL response

The state of North Dakota has secured a $10 million in federal funds to pay for its often brutal response to the #NoDAPL movement.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) announced the grant on Tuesday. Each took credit for the award, having inserted an obscure provision in an appropriations bill that funded an "emergency" law enforcement program that is open to states but not to tribes.

“Ensuring the safety of everyone in the area during the protests was a tremendous undertaking for our law enforcement,” Hoeven, who serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said in a press release. “Considering the protestor camp was allowed to remain on federal land and the Obama administration’s decision to prolong the situation and refusal to enforce the law, it only makes sense that the federal government should shoulder a share of the cost. That’s why we worked so hard to bring this funding to the state and relieve some of this burden.”

“Throughout the protests, the federal government didn’t step in to help with the exponential costs that only continued to balloon. I’ve been searching for every opportunity to make sure North Dakota gets reimbursed by the federal government for these costs that have weighed on our state," added Heitkamp, who also serves on the committee.

According to Gov. Doug Burgum (R), the state spent $38 million responding to the #NoDAPL movement during the latter half of 2016 and the first couple of months in 2017. The activity was mostly centered in a small area in Morton County, where law enforcement repeatedly employed aggressive tactics and relied on assistance from non-licensed security firms to put down opposition to the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

"North Dakota law enforcement performed admirably under immense pressure and scrutiny to maintain the peace and protect public property, including federal land," Heitkamp said in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in which she urged the Department of Justice to issue the grant.

Months after pipeline opponents were forced out of the county, the state asked for $13.85 million -- Heitkamp called it "compensation" -- despite being flush with energy revenues. According to Energy of North Dakota, the state has taken in more than $3.25 billion in taxes, oil and gas production and extraction taxes since 2014.

But rather than shoulder the burdens, Hoeven, Heitkamp and other North Dakota politicians faulted the federal government for not doing more. They repeatedly noted that the largest #NoDAPL encampment was located on federal land managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

That certainly was true in the case of Oceti Sakowin, whose name represents the Seven Council Fires of the Sioux Nation. But the original #NoDAPL encampment, Sacred Stone Camp, began on the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The tribe, though, was not eligible for the program that benefited North Dakota. The Emergency Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Program, which was funded with $15 million total for the current fiscal year, is only available for state governments.

According to North Dakota politicians, the state had to devote so much time on the #NoDAPL movement because the Obama administration never made a decision on the final portion of the pipeline. That changed right after President Donald Trump took office in January, when he directed his team to "expedite" the project.

Barely two weeks later, the Army Corps approved the last segment, at a spot near the #NoDAPL encampment. The agency did so without consulting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe or the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

Chairman Dave Archambault II from Standing Rock found out after his plane landed in Washington, D.C., for a meeting with the White House that had taken weeks to secure. Cheyenne River leaders were told in a phone call after the fact.

With approval in hand, the wealthy backers of the pipeline were able to finish construction and oil began flowing on June 1. But two weeks later, a federal judge said the Army Corps failed to consider the tribes' concerns about treaty rights, water resources and environmental justice.

The pipeline, though, remains operational. The tribes are seeking to halt the flow of oil until the Trump administration conducts a new analysis of that final portion. Government attorneys have indicated that it could months before something emerges from the Army Corps, an agency with a troubled history in Indian Country.

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