‘The corps is responsible for maintaining order and safety on lands that it manages…’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed a claim against the federal government on Friday seeking $38 million, alleging that the federal government’s improper management of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests caused the state to incur unnecessary costs.
Stenehjem’s lawsuit says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not enforce the law, forcing North Dakota to spend millions on law enforcement and other costs, The Bismarck Tribune reported.
The suit says the federal government should not have let the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other protesters onto federal land.
Their illegal presence disturbed neighboring communities and deteriorated the local environment, causing the federal government to spend $1 million to clean up the protest site.
“The corps is responsible for maintaining order and safety on lands that it manages,” Stenehjem said in an interview on Friday.
The claim has the support of Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota.
“The Army Corps of Engineers and other federal officials did not enforce the law, which allowed the illegal encampment to take place,” Hoeven said in a statement.
Law enforcement had to assist in large numbers because the protesters were not peaceful.
About 1,400 law enforcement officers came to the protest from its beginning in August 2016 to its end in February 2017.
Officers and other personnel came from 11 states and 23 state agencies.
North Dakota lawmakers approved $43 million for costs related to the protests, but the state spent only $38 million.
They requested that Stenehjem use “reasonable and available options” to earn back the state’s protest costs.
The total costs of the protests is larger than what North Dakota spent on law enforcement.
But they also tried to attack the North Dakota Access Pipeline by bullying banks into cutting off funding and by filing frivolous lawsuits.
North Dakota filed the claim against the U.S. Army Corps under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows private parties to recoup losses from damages caused or allowed by the federal government.
The federal government has six months to settle the claim or pay the $38 million.
North Dakota can sue the U.S. Army Corps in federal court if a resolution isn’t found under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
When the protests began, the U.S. Department of Justice paid North Dakota $10 million to manage the protests’ ecological and civil disruptions.
The Dakota Access Pipeline LLC also contributed to the state’s pipeline protest response costs, paying it $15 million.
Stenehjem’s claim did not subtract the $25 million paid by the DOJ or the Dakota Access Pipeline corporation into the amount requested.
The attorney general said the grant from the Dakota Access Pipeline corporation does not negate the federal government’s responsibility to cover costs for its negligence.
“The $15 million was a gift to the people of North Dakota. It was not intended to offset the obligation of the corps, which is responsible for the expenses incurred by the taxpayers of this state,” Stenehjem said, according to the Bismarck Tribune.
The Department of Justice and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers both declined to comment.
Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota, blamed the Obama administration for the costs incurred by North Dakota.
“Rather than provide security and safety for our citizens, the Obama Administration’s refusal to execute their legal obligations during the entirety of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests helped introduce and proliferate environmental terrorism throughout North Dakota,” Cramer said in a statement.