Business, labor criticize feds as pipeline tensions escalate

By Patrick C. Miller | October 26, 2016

A coalition of 22 business and labor groups signed a letter calling on the Obama administration to follow the rule of law and the established regulatory process to complete construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline that runs from North Dakota to Illinois.

Sent last Thursday, the letter was addressed to Eric Fanning, secretary of the U.S. Army; Sally Jewel, secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior; and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, U.S. Department of Justice.

“We write to express our deep concerns over recent actions that took place in North Dakota to effectively ignore the rule of law in an attempt to halt infrastructure development,” the letter said.

The coalition’s letter added, “This North Dakota project has complied with the procedures laid out in law, engaged in more than two years of federal review and has received the necessary federal approvals. Additionally, the project has been fully approved by all four states it traverses. The federal approvals required for the project were upheld by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a 58- page opinion.”

The letter went on to criticize the Obama administration for having the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the Department of Justice and Department of Interior intervene in the project to halt construction at the point where the pipeline’s route crosses the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The administration said it needed to reconsider previous decisions under various federal laws after the tribe said the pipeline threatened its drinking water and cultural sites.

“The previous decisions now being ‘reconsidered’ were properly considered and made through a fair and thorough process on which the company and others are entitled to rely,” the letter said. “In our ‘nation of laws,’ when an established legal process is complete, it is just that—complete.”

In another development related to the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile-long pipeline that will carry about a half million barrels per day of Bakken crude from western North Dakota to a terminal in Patoka, Illinois, Dakota Access LLC—a subsidiary of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners—on Tuesday warned that “lawless behavior will not be tolerated” from protestors trespassing on the company’s private land. The statement urged protestors to vacate the land immediately or face removal by law enforcement and prosecution “to the fullest extent of the law.”

During a news conference on Wednesday, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said law enforcement is engaging in ongoing efforts to establish and dialogue with the protestors in hopes of a peaceful resolution to the standoff. He said the protesters were asked to move off of private property, remove their barricade from State Highway 1806 and stop blocking other country roads in the construction area in Morton County.

Kirchmeier said that several states in the region recently sent resources to assist North Dakota in the standoff with Dakota Access Pipeline protesters. He declined to elaborate on the number of law enforcement officers present, the types of resources that have been provided or a timetable for ending the confrontation.

Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney told reporters, “We have the resources, we have the manpower to end this right now. We have the ability. What we did again today was to go down and reach out to the camps and say, ‘Listen, there is a very common-sense way to deal with this. We can deal with this in the courts. We can deal with this at the federal government level.’”

However, Laney said the response from the protesters was that they would not move and intended to make a stand.

“The last thing we want to do is do it forcefully,” Kirchmeier said. “We want to give them every opportunity to do this lawful, but right now, laws are being violated.”

The letter to Obama administration officials was signed by the following organizations: American Chemistry Council; American Forest & Paper Association; American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers; American Gas Association; American Highway Users Alliance; American Iron and Steel Institute; Association of Energy Service Companies; American Petroleum Institute; American Road and Transportation Builders Association; Association of Oil Pipe Lines; Consumer Energy Alliance; Edison Electric Institute; Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance; GPA Midstream Association; Independent Petroleum Association of America; Industrial Energy Consumers of America; Institute for 21st Century Energy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Interstate Natural Gas Association of America; National Association of Manufacturers; Natural Gas Supply Association; Portland Cement Association; and The Association of Union Constructors.