Burgum: federal government should pay for ‘disaster’ at pipeline protest

(The Center Square) – North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said a protest over the Dakota Access Pipeline was a “disaster” for the state during a court hearing Monday over whether the federal government should reimburse the state for $38 million in costs related to the pipeline.

More than 5,000 people camped near the pipeline site from August 2016 to March 2017. State officials arrested 761 people and 709 were out-of-state residents, according to Burgum’s office.

The state sued in 2019 to recoup the security and cleanup costs.

“Since the beginning, we have taken the position that the federal government – not North Dakota taxpayers – should shoulder the burden of the enormous costs of law enforcement and other resources expended on the DAPL protests and cleanup,” Burgum said after his testimony. “Instead of evicting protesters from federal lands, the U.S. government enabled and encouraged protesters to use Corps land as a home base to launch their often violent and illegal protests. As this trial is showing, the federal government knew it wasn’t following its own laws and policies but continued to play politics with the pipeline, turning a deaf ear to North Dakota’s pleas for help and enforcement. It’s time for the feds to pay up and make North Dakota whole.”

The protest ended after Burgum issued an emergency order in February 2017.

“We were very concerned about the life safety issue, and of course we were trying to establish the rule of law in North Dakota,” Burgum said.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Traynor, who is hearing the case, denied a motion from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in 2022 to limit the scope of the case.

The trial is expected to last through mid-March, according to Burgum’s office.